Switching Sides

1 decade 9 months 3 weeks ago Thursday, August 02 2007 Aug 2, 2007 Thursday, August 02, 2007 1:20:47 PM CDT August 02, 2007 in News

State Senator Chris Koster moved to the other side of the aisle this morning, announcing he is leaving the Republican Party, and the move is already causing shock waves.

"Today I am a Democrat," Koster said at an announcement in Columbia.

Just like that, the political atmosphere leading into the 2008 elections got a lot more interesting.

Koster, until Tuesday the chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, announced his intention to join the Democratic Party.

"On so many of the critical issues of our day, it is Democrats and not Republicans who have shared my beliefs and fought by my side," said Koster.

Those issues include stem-cell research, workers' rights, raising the minimum wage, and maintaining an independent judiciary. But some feel these were not paramount in Koster's decision.

"This was not a decision of conscience," said Paul Sloka of the Missouri Republican Party. "This was a decision about the contributions and support he received from those groups who have long been supporters of Democrats."

"Part of my decision, I hope, will be viewed as an embrace of the Democratic agenda," said Koster.

Members of both parties, including a likely Democratic oppoenent next year, said it's not so easy to change your stripes.

"He's a Republican," said Democratic house representative Jeff Harris. "His voting record, track record, his leadership record, all point to the fact that he's a Republican through and through."

"He supported the Republican agenda, he's been on the record over and over supporting the governor," Sloka said.

Still, Republicans had to sit and watch as one of their own walked away.

Many believe Koster will announce his candidacy for the attorney general's office sometime in the near future. When asked about this Wednesday, Koster declined to comment, stating that today was about his "break with the far right and the Republican ranks."

Democrats say Koster's decision is a sign of trouble in the Republican camp.

The Republican Party says Koster is a surprising loss, but will pursue its agenda as planned.

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