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Missouri politicians urge more lawyers to run for office

Heather Cole//September 24, 2009

Missouri politicians urge more lawyers to run for office

Heather Cole//September 24, 2009

Send help.

Six attorneys who are politicians sent that message to attorneys today at a session on politics at the Missouri Bench and Bar meeting.

“At noon, a third legislator will plead guilty to some allegation and it’s a very disappointing thing,” said moderator and former Republican state Sen. Michael Gibbons. “You’re needed now more than ever as we try to restore people’s faith in government.”

Gibbons was referring to the guilty plea in federal court of St. Louis state Rep. Talibdin El-Amin, D-57th District, who faced bribery allegations.  

Lawyers’ training in ethics, debate and the law put them in a unique position to help out in state government, Gibbons and the panel members said.

“If I had a sign up here, I would hold it up and it would say ‘Send help,'” said state Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Kansas City. “Back in the 1960s, half of the legislators were lawyers. Now we’re a small minority. We need lawyers to run for public office.”

While lawyers should take leadership roles, the panel members acknowledged there are hurdles and sacrifices, including fund-raising and time away from law practices and families.

“Send an e-mail to my partner Kevin Graham to thank him for supporting me. He’s a Democrat, he’s losing money, there’s really no upside for him,” Republican state Rep. Tim Flook said of his partner at Liberty plaintiffs’ firm Flook & Graham.

The hurdles are surmountable, however, panel members said. Flook spoke of making it a habit to carve out time for his law practice. Bartle said he would opt to miss votes if his son, Mack, was playing baseball. And state Rep. Don Calloway advocated “field planning” to win a campaign.

“It’s like a game of golf as opposed to a game of basketball,” said Calloway, a St. Louis Democrat. “I was playing against the course, not playing against my opponents.”

Other panel members were state Rep. Rachel Storch, D-St. Louis, and Democratic State Auditor Susan Montee.

Read more on this story in Friday’s papers.

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