Ed Martin, the Republican candidate for Missouri attorney general, said this week his incumbent opponent is a “phony,” but called his race one of the toughest on the upcoming November ballot.

Martin visited The Missourian Monday, touting the same talking points as his latest ad.

The ad highlights what Martin calls some of current Attorney General Chris Koster’s biggest faults — not joining a court challenge against President Barack Obama’s health care law, his switching from the Republican party to the Democratic party in 2007 and Koster’s claims to be a prosecutor.

“He’s pretty phony in his positions,” Martin said. “This is a guy who has already said he’s running for governor in 2016. His primary goal is getting money from trial lawyers.”

Of Koster’s changing parties, Martin said he acknowledges he too switched — changing his campaign from lieutenant governor to attorney general this year following a failed bid for U.S. Congress two years ago.

“People say I switched races, fair enough, but at least I never changed parties,” he said.

Martin said the AG position is one of administrator, not prosecutor.

Martin also knocked Koster’s campaign.

“My opponent is big on TV ads, but not… on knocking on doors,” he said.

Martin said if elected he’ll pass initiatives to protect military and veterans rights, create a crime-cutting council and improve transparency and accountability in the AG’s office.

Says Koster Engaged in Pay to Play

“We need transparency in where the money is going,” Martin said. “I’m inclined to think outside law firms getting… big money bids is the wrong model.”

Martin’s campaign alleges that Koster accepted $750,000 in campaign contributions from law firms who later bid on contracts to represent the state.

Martin told The Missourian that instead of rejecting the bids or returning the money, Koster simply decided the contracted work was no longer needed.

Martin said trial lawyers have heavily influenced the state’s Supreme Court and said Gov. Jay Nixon and Koster both cater to trial lawyers in an attempt to further their political ambitions.

He said the Democratic party in Missouri has learned to use the AG’s office to generate money for trial lawyers, who then give money back to Democratic campaigns.

“That’s a system of justice that seems uniquely flawed,” Martin said.

“The rule of law is being assaulted by corruption, and (Koster) is right there in the middle of it,” he said.

Admits to Past Errors

Martin said he wants greater transparency in the state, something he himself has failed at in the past.

“In a way, most of my career has been as pushing for more openness and transparency,” he said. Martin said he learned about open meeting laws during his time as chairman of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners.

He said he continued his push for accountability as Gov. Matt Blunt’s chief of staff, including an accountability portal website which he said “became a model for the country.”

Blunt’s office violated two state record retention laws with regard to emails, an investigation unveiled in 2009.

The report blamed Henry Herschel, Blunt’s top attorney and custodian of records, for not understanding statutes.

Martin was criticized by newspapers across the state for publicly trashing Scott Eckersley, a deputy counsel under Blunt who suggested emails be retained.

“It was a messy thing that was not handled as well as we could have,” Martin said.

Martin also is chairing the Missouri Republican Party’s “Victory 2012” campaign.