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Politically Speaking: Ed Martin says crowded GOP presidential field could be good for party

Ed Martin
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies chat with Eagle Forum president Ed Martin about the wide open race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Martin -- a Republican who ran for Congress in 2010 and for Missouri attorney general in 2012 -- recently took over as head of the Eagle Forum, a conservative group founded by St. Louis-based activist Phyllis Schlafly.  Theorganization hosts its annual Eagle Council in early September, an event that’s expected to attract at least six GOP presidential hopefuls: Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry.

Before taking the helm of the Eagle Forum, Martin, a native of New Jersey, spent time toiling in the legal, religious and political world.  After graduating from St. Louis University's School of Law, he worked at the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and became an associate at the prestigious Bryan Cave law firm.  He later became chairman of the St. Louis Board of Elections.

In 2006, Martin was named chief of staff for Gov. Matt Blunt. His tenure coincided with a decidedly combative time in Missouri politics, as Republicans and Democrats duked it out over higher education and abortion. Martin left his postin January 2008 amid a controversy over e-mail retention.

Martin entered the electoral arena in 2010 by challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis. Martin came within two percentage points of knocking off Carnahan, who had represented what many believed was a safe Democratic district.

After considering a run for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House in 2012, Martin decided instead to challenge Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

After his defeat in the attorney general’s contest, Martin was elected chairman of the Missouri Republican Party. He held that position for a little more than two years and in that time saw the GOP expand its already huge majorities in the Missouri General Assembly.  But Martin was criticized for the state party's less-than-flush financial coffers. He faced a leadership challenge earlier this year from GOP consultant John Hancock. But before the two could square off earlier this year at the party's Lincoln Days, Martin announced his new position at Eagle Forum. Hancock now is state GOP chairman.

Among Martin's observations during the podcast:

  • Eagle Forum’s key issues are “immigration, American sovereignty and military superiority,’’ and the council expects the presidential candidates to address those issues.
  • He credits Donald Trump’s current popularity to his success in appealing to Americans in both parties who are concerned about illegal immigration -- especially how it has cost Americans their jobs and lowered their wages. Martin says Trump plans to campaign soon in the St. Louis area.
  • Eagle Forum is calling for a temporary "moratorium'' on all immigration, while the nation assesses the impact. Martin says legal immigration has cost American jobs in some sectors, notably high-tech.
  • Martin has some sympathy with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton regarding the controversy over her use of a private email account while U.S. secretary of state. Martin also believes she may be the most vulnerable Democrat for the Republican nominee in 2016.
  • Martin predicts that the crowded GOP field could lead to the first contested Republican presidential convention since 1976, which he says could be good for the party and attract more public interest. He quips that the GOP could benefit from "chaos in Cleveland,'' where its 2016 convention is to be held.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Ed Martin on Twitter:  @EdMartin4MO

Music: “Take It to the Limit” by Eagles  

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.