Koster, as any political junky in Missouri could recite in his sleep, is a former Republican state senator who dramatically switched parties, filed for attorney general (the State's number two job!) as a Democrat, and won what has been described as the tightest statewide primary in Missouri history.
("Has been described as" is an admission that I don't have the patience to check this claim against the historical record.)
For months I attacked Koster as shrilly as any progressive, labeling him "Flipper" in The St. Louis American's Political EYE column.
Meanwhile, he kept coming into the newspaper with the same, direct line of attack and a sharp set of suggestions pitched to appeal to the black electorate. By endorsement time, he had won the respect of the newspaper, and we had dropped the "Flipper" thing, though we still endorsed Margaret Donnelly.
It must say something that I called Margaret to express regrets when she narrowly lost, though I only offered my congratulations to Koster tonight when I saw him face to face. All the same, the congratulations were sincere. He ran a tough, skilled campaign - and he left some well-defined promises and goals with which the black community can challenge and judge him.
The best point he made in the campaign was that his credentials to the right are well established, having been a prosecutor and a Republican. He argued that it would be easier for him to veer to the left on certain issues than it would be for Margaret, who would fight for statewide office and then (if she won) run a difficult office with the reputation of a liberal. (She also is a woman who is small in stature, though Koster did not point that out. Everyone understood these to be factors, fairly or not.)
That's all politics, needless to say. As for the job itself, there was never any doubt in my mind that Koster is qualified to run the Attorney General's Office. He is a sharp guy with abundant experience as a prosecutor and a politician. I will vote for him without hesitation or reservation on Nov. 4.
From the looks of the room tonight, the rest of the party has come around to him. In the house: State party chair John Temporiti, state Auditor Susan Montee, the Democratic campaign chairs for both the Senate (Jeff Smith) and House (Rachel Storch), County Executive Charlie Dooley, Comptroller Darlene Green and former Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr.
Plus, all of the lawyers who footed the bill. A lot of high-powered, top-dollar attorneys in that room. I like attorneys, myself. I find them intelligent, expressive, direct, well-informed. I enjoyed myself and would have seen the party through to the end, except my mouth is an experimental space in the wake of oral surgery and I felt vaguely freaked out the entire time, as a result.
"Congratulations, Chris," I said to the candidate, quite sincerely - yet I was thinking the whole time about the bone graft swishing around in my gums.
I'll get over it. And I hope progressive Democrats get over Koster's Republican past and his victory over Margaret. He deserves our vote.
P.S. The chocolate is delicious.