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Primary contests can be an approach/avoidance situation.  They’re useful as far as giving the Democratic base a choice, but they take a toll on the finances of the eventual winner.

Here’s the upside of contested primaries:  I could take a vacation if I had a ten dollar bill for every time I’ve wished some DINO would get a progressive challenger in the primary.  And sometimes the results are wonderful.  Look at Senator John Tester’s primary win in Montana last year.  He decimated the DLC selected Democrat and went on to win.

But it can work the other way, too.  In the Missouri attorney general’s race, we have two fine progressives, Margaret Donnelly and Jeff Harris, opposed by a recent convert from the Republican party, Chris Koster. 

As a state senator, Koster has name recognition and a much larger chunk of change than his opponents.  He raised over $440,000 in the third quarter alone and has a million on hand.  $100,000 of that $440,000 came from Rex Sinquefield PACs–and, by the way, Koster isn’t saying whether he would oppose state tax credits for families that send their children to private schools.

Koster would like Democrats to overlook his record, but Margaret Donnelly called him on his recent flip flop over the Medicaid cuts:

In a press release today, Donnelly said Koster suggested he would have liked a “do-over” of his vote at a Missouri Democratic Party State Committee meeting last Saturday.

“What’s most curious about Koster’s most recent statements appealing for a do-over is that in September of 2007 Koster told KY3 in Springfield that he stood behind his decision to cut Medicaid eligibility. So which is it Chris? Do you want a do-over or do you stand behind cutting thousands of Missourians off needed healthcare?,” an e-mail from the Donnelly campaign for Attorney General asks today.

Jeff Harris is getting his blows in too by challenging Koster to give back his over-limit donations.

Put that information about the Donnelly/Harris/Koster arguments on hold for a minute, while you consider this: the Missouri Democratic Party chairman, John Temporiti, doesn’t seem to buy into that approach/avoidance attitude toward primaries.  He knows what he wants: fewer primary contests.  He believes that eliminating many of them would give the Dems a chance to take more seats in the legislature.  To that end, he’s been having conferences with candidates involved in primary contests, trying to talk those less likely to win the general election into dropping out.

Temporiti says he talks to the candidates about “campaign assets, resources and winnability.”  That doesn’t sound as if he focuses on policy, does it?  Of course, he would probably argue that any Democrat who gets elected is one more vote to put the skids on the right wingers.  A few more votes, for example, might have prevented the wingnuts from passing that abstinence only sex education bill last spring.  We’re dealing with people who are fond of crowing that the bill defeated Planned Promiscuity, that they ran a truck over Planned Terrorist in the Womb (parenthood-not).  Clever, eh?  And much in need of being stopped.

Temporiti claims success at getting two state legislators to drop out and give Rep. Joan Barry, a better known candidate, a clear field in the race for the soon-to-be-vacant First District state Senate seat.  He also talked to the two men running for Lieutenant Governor, Sam Page and Mike Evans.  The rumor mill has it that Evans, far less well funded, will drop out in a couple of weeks.  If Sam Page is the last one standing, he’ll need everything he’s got to beat Peter kinder.

And now, back to the AG race. 

Temporiti acknowledges less success in trimming the current three-Democrat field running for Missouri attorney general. He admits being envious of the state Republican Party, which already has winnowed its attorney general contenders down to state Sen. Michael Gibbons of Kirkwood.

Temporiti says he’s met with the three declared Democrats: state Sen. Chris Koster of Harrisonville and state Reps. Jeff Harris of Columbia and Margaret Donnelly of Richmond Heights.

Temporiti said he discussed with each their “financial resources, grasp of the issues, and winnability in a statewide race.” The upshot: “All three of them have made very persuasive arguments of why they should stay in this race.”

Koster’s arguments would be name recognition and MONEY, while Harris and Donnelly are less well known but dependably progressive.  I just hope the two of them don’t cancel each other out and leave the top spot to Koster.  Not that I don’t appreciate him leaving the dark side, but he doesn’t deserve that nomination until he builds some street cred as a Democrat.

Temporiti plans to continue discussing the race in hopes of getting one or two of them to drop out.  If Koster refuses to go, Donnelly and Harris would do the progressive side of the party a favor if they could agree that one of them should drop out.  They’re both so good that I hate to say that, but their competition could throw the race to a candidate who is untested as a Democrat and who has several legislative votes that make me cringe.