Missouri Dem Downplays Clinton Endorsement

Koster refuses to praise vets charity founded by former SEAL Greitens

Chris Koster
Chris Koster / AP
October 5, 2016

Missouri Democrat Chris Koster downplayed his endorsement of Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

Attorney General Chris Koster, who is seeking to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, refused to say whether he "enthusiastically supported" the former secretary of state in an interview with St. Louis radio host Mark Reardon.

"Are you enthusiastically supporting your Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton?" Reardon asked.

"You know, there’s stuff that I agree with her on and there’s stuff I disagree with her on," Koster replied.

Reardon pressed Koster on dodging the question and asked for a straightforward response.

"What kind of answer is that? She’s the nominee of your party," he asked.

"Mark, there’s stuff that I agree with her on and there’s stuff that I disagree with her on," Koster replied.

Democrats in the state will have to rely on ballot splitting if they are to retain control of the statehouse, given Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s commanding lead over Clinton among Missouri voters. A Real Clear Politics average of three September polls shows Trump with a 10-point lead.

Clinton praised Koster at a St. Louis campaign event in December. Koster was among more than 60 prominent Democratic lawmakers to serve on the "Hillary for Missouri Leadership Council" during her primary run against socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.). Clinton eked out a victory, winning by 1,500 votes out of more than 620,000 cast.

Republican nominee Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL and philanthropist, criticized Koster’s refusal to stand by his endorsement. He said that voters can expect Koster to pursue Clinton’s policy agenda if elected in November.

"In typical career-politician fashion Chris Koster has endorsed Hillary Clinton and her policies but now refuses to actually say the words," said Greitens spokesman Austin Chambers Washington Free Beacon. "They are largely the same candidate: both support Obamacare expansion in Missouri, both want higher taxes, and both have been the subject of investigations regarding their shady fundraising and corrupt pay to play practices."

Koster also refused to say whether The Mission Continues—the veterans charity Greitens founded—was an admirable enterprise, instead launching into an attack on Greitens over tax returns.

"Chris, I mean it’s a good organization. It’s an organization that’s helped thousands of veterans in the country. Do you deny that?" Reardon said. 

"Well, let’s wait until the tax returns. I think he’s going to release his tax returns this week. So let’s wait and see what happens," Koster said.

The Mission Continues has placed thousands of veterans into local volunteer organizations since its 2007 founding and has been hailed by numerous media outlets, as well as the Clinton Global Initiative. Charity Navigator gave it its top rating, including a perfect score for its financial management and a 92 out of 100 for transparency.

Koster leads Greitens by 11 points, according to Real Clear Politics.