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Rich Finneran enters attorney general race, sets up Democratic primary

A St. Louis lawyer who spent seven years as an assistant U.S. attorney has decided to make a bid to be Missouri’s chief law enforcement official.

Rich Finneran announced his bid to be Missouri’s attorney general on Tuesday. He is the second Democrat to throw his hat in the race, setting up an August 2020 primary with Elad Gross.

In his announcement video, Finneran directly criticized the incumbent Republican candidate. Eric Schmitt, elected state treasurer in 2016, was appointed by Gov. Mike Parson as attorney general in November; the position opened when Attorney General Josh Hawley was elected to represent Missouri in the U.S. Senate, replacing Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. 

“Our state’s chief law enforcement officer simply cannot let politics get in the way of prosecuting criminals, defending victims of crime, going after public corruption, or pursuing corporations that rip people off,” Finneran said. “Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening today. Our current attorney general, Eric Schmitt, is a politician, not a prosecutor. And that is the way he has run the Attorney General’s Office.”

He lambasted Schmitt for continuing with a lawsuit, started under Hawley, that would overturn the Affordable Care Act and mandated coverage of pre-existing conditions.

“I think it is time the Attorney General’s Office gets back to putting people ahead of politics,” Finneran said. “That is exactly what I will do.”

“While the Democrat candidates will be engaged in politics and a political primary, Attorney General Eric Schmitt is focused on his job as the lawyer for six million Missourians where he has created an unprecedented partnership with law enforcement to help prosecute violent crime that is nearing 100 indictments of violent criminals in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield, fought to protect the most vulnerable including those with special needs and taken on big pharmaceutical companies to help end the opioid crisis,” Rich Chrismer, a spokesperson for Attorney General Schmitt’s campaign, told The Missouri Times.

Working for Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in St. Louis, Finneran also serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University School of Law and as the head coach of the school’s National Moot Court Team.

Finneran previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. His caseload as a federal prosecutor featured investment fraud, embezzlement, Ponzi schemes, securities fraud, tax evasion, Bank Secrecy Act violation, cybercrime, public corruption, and money laundering matters.

“As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is that politics never get in the way of enforcing the law fairly and equally. And that is especially true when it comes to the office of Missouri Attorney General,” Finneran said. 

No campaign committee has yet to be formed supporting Finneran’s bid. 

As of October quarterly filings, Schmitt had $559,958 cash on hand after racking in nearly $100,000 for the three month period. The PAC supporting Schmitt’s candidacy, Mo Opportunity, ended with $1.15 million after receiving $429,751 in donations. 

In contrast, Gross brought in $38,233 over the three month period and has $26,172 cash on hand. He has made taking on so-called dark money the centerpiece of his campaign.