Attorney general race broadens

Columbia lawyer Dewey Crepeau wants to challenge Jay Nixon for the job.
Monday, March 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:17 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

It’s no secret that Columbia lawyer Dewey Crepeau is looking to topple Democrat Jay Nixon’s incumbency advantage in this year’s election for Missouri attorney general.

It’s also no secret that Nixon has raised the most money to date to support his candidacy — nearly $280,000 — for a possible fourth term as the state’s leading law enforcement official.

Yet Crepeau, a Republican with strong ties in the community, has been trying to chip away at Nixon’s armor with charges that residents and public officials are dissatisfied with Missouri’s legal climate.

“I sense that people are in need of a change,” Crepeau said. That change, he said, will happen because of his ability to connect with everyday people and their concerns.

Crepeau said his background as a former prosecutor, defender and small-business owner — he runs a private practice specializing in workers’ compensation, Social Security disability and adoption law — has prepared him for the challenge of running for the position.

This isn’t Crepeau’s first foray into politics. One of his more notable activities was his role in the 2000 election as state campaign chairman for former Ambassador Alan Keyes, who ran against George W. Bush and John McCain for the Republican nomination. Crepeau ran unsuccessfully for the Columbia City Council in 1989, too. He also served on the local Human Rights Commission.

Before he gets to face off with Nixon in November, however, Crepeau has to win his party’s nomination. Republican challenger Chris Byrd of Kansas City has stepped up to challenge him for the spot. If money is an indicator, Crepeau has the inside track, having raised $26,590 compared to Byrd’s $6,735, according to campaign finance disclosures filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission in January.

Crepeau, Nixon and Byrd all filed their candidacies with the Secretary of State’s Office two weeks ago. Before that, Crepeau’s campaign team found itself fending off media skepticism about his statewide campaign’s organization, lack of name recognition and the money raised so far to finance his candidacy.

Crepeau said he’s been stopping in large and small counties since last summer to answer questions and build support for his campaign.

“We’re seeing more interest all over the state,” he said. “They realize how important a race it is.”

If elected, Crepeau said his first priority would be to make the Attorney General’s Office more accessible and accountable to Missourians.

He said he’d also consider propositions for term limits on statewide offices and reforms to the state’s juvenile court system.

“I’ve kept a gauge on what people think is right and wrong,” he said. “People want more vigorous enforcement of the laws.”

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