POLITICS
01/07/2013 07:27 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2013

Ed Martin, Tea Party Favorite, Elected Missouri GOP Chairman

A Tea Party favorite elected as chairman of the Missouri Republican Party late last week is already being criticized as a Todd Akin-like politician.

Ed Martin, who lost a race for Missouri attorney general in 2012, narrowly captured the party chairmanship, unseating incumbent David Cole, who was backed by the state's GOP establishment. Martin's election is being met with criticism from state Democrats, who are comparing him to Akin, the former Missouri Republican congressman who lost last year's U.S. Senate race following his "legitimate rape" comments.

"In this last election, Missouri voters rejected Todd Akin and Ed Martin's extreme views on rape and contraception, which simply aren't in step with the mainstream values of women and families in our state," Mike Sanders, chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, said in a statement. "It's telling that the extreme elements in Missouri's Republican Party have doubled down on Todd Akin by electing Ed Martin, someone who would criminalize emergency contraception even for victims of rape and incest."

Democrats have jumped on a series of remarks that Martin, who has provided legal representation to pro-life groups, made on such issues as abortion, which he has opposed in cases of rape and incest.

State Democrats released an email, obtained under the state's open records laws, that Martin sent to an official with Advance USA, a conservative group. Martin, then chief of staff to then-Gov. Matt Blunt (R), was discussing the inclusion of an African-American judge, Nanette Baker, on a list of three candidates for the state Supreme Court in 2007.

"Not sure. But 1 out of 3 sent to us was the worst I have ever seen (baker)," Martin wrote. "She is a black woman, pro-abort, and very liberal."

Martin has also been criticized in the past for his handling of government records and his comments on immigration.

A spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party did not return a call for comment.

The Columbia Tribune reported that Martin told GOP leaders after his election that the country was being attacked by liberals.

"America is under assault because of the left-liberal vision of what they are trying to do to us," Martin reportedly said.

Former Missouri state Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis), now a political science professor at The New School in New York, said Martin's election is a culmination of the direction in which Missouri Republicans have been headed since 1996. He said that while moderate Republicans had long held sway in the state party, the growing conservative influence in the state helped lead to Martin, along with Akin's selection as the Senate nominee last year.

"It is clearly a victory for the strong social conservative wing of the party," Smith said. "He has been closely identified with the Tea Party."

Smith, who maintains close relationships with Missouri Republicans, said that in the end, he sees Democrats being the winners from Martin's victory. While Tea Party Republicans dominate the state Legislature, Democrats control the governorship and most statewide offices.

"I like Ed personally. I am genuinely happy for him," Smith said. "But I am happier for the Missouri Democratic Party. The general sense among Missouri Democrats is this is a sign that Republicans will occupy ideology that is inhospitable to moderates and independents."

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