BACKGROUND: Press releases are a dime a dozen in Missouri politics. But the ones that don't feature much information typically bring about the most news.
That was the case when then-Sen. Chris Koster sent a missive to press outlets that he was about to make "a major announcement" that may "transform the political landscape of Missouri." A few hours after the e-mail was sent, Koster had told several media outlets that he was departing from the Republican Party.
It was indeed a stunning development. Koster was not by any means a backbencher lawmaker. Rather, he became highly visible in battles over stem cell research, the reconfiguration of eminent domain laws and oversight over CAFOs. His gaudy fundraising ability and speech-making skills made him a top-flight contender in the Republican Attorney General primary. It seemed like a decision that came out of nowhere.
When he came to Columbia on the first day of August 2007, Koster cited his inability to agree with the Republican Party on the judicial selection process, stem cell research or labor union issues. He also pointed to the party's chilly relations with so-called "moderates."
Some - such as Sens. Jeff Smith and Victor Callahan - embraced Koster. Others - such as Reps. Jeff Harris and Margaret Donnelly - called him an opportunist.
By November 2008, the entire state would call Koster "attorney general."
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Few moves genuinely took me off guard more than Koster's decision to switch parties. For instance, it was not necessarily a shock that Sen. Kit Bond decided to retire earlier this year. And even Gov. Matt Blunt's decision not to run for re-election had been bandied about in the months before his announcement.
Koster had been elected into a leadership position within his caucus and was placed in charge of monitoring state Senate races in 2006. Moreover, he had taken stances on issues - such as the debate over whether to standardize the law governing CAFOs - that were not exactly friendly to Democratic interest groups.
But whatever his decision, Koster soon switched gears to succeeding then-Attorney General Jay Nixon. The primary was brutal, as both of his opponents attacked him with great ferocity. His Democratic credentials were constantly under siege. And he had to face off against two relatively strong challengers in Donnelly and Harris. But by the time the smoke cleared, Koster had squeaked out a primary win. Some attributed the victory to a fourth candidate - Molly Williams - taking votes away from Donnelly. Yet, others pointed to Koster's advertisements, which were seen as some of the best of the entire election cycle.
To some extent, the general election contest between Koster and Michael Gibbons lacked the pizazz of the primary. There were certainly some fierce attack, yet the race got overshadowed by the governor's contest and the presidential election. But Koster's decision to switch parties actually lived up the press release's billing by shaking up the state's political scene.
FUN FACT: Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that I'm a fan of professional wrestling. And my affinity for the "sport" prompted me to allude to a moment when describing Koster's party switch and primary victory.
Back in the 1990s, Ric Flair had an talk show on WCW called "Flair for the Gold." Like most talk shows, Flair used the opportunity to interview wrestlers in between matches. He brought out "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith and Sting to talk about an upcoming six-man tag match. Then out of nowhere, Sid Vicious and Harlem Heat confront the duo. Sid demands to know the idenity of Sting and Bulldog's parter. After a few moments of arguing, Sting says the following immortal words:
"All I have to say is our partner is going to SHOCK the world. Because he is none other than THE SHOCK... MASTER!"
After some cheesy pyrotechnics, the man formerly known as Typhoon fell through a wall and landed on his head. When got back up, the world was stunned to see this guy.