By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
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By RFT Staff
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Martin's wife, Carol, is a geriatrics physician. They have a daughter in first grade, a three-year-old boy and a twenty-month-old son Martin calls his "stimulus baby," thanks to his birth date of February 17, 2009 — the day that legislation became law. Martin has no problem changing diapers, he says, because he literally has no sense of smell. (He also endured open-heart surgery in 2008.)
Soon he's back inside his office at the Freedom Bunker. On one wall hang all four of his diplomas, including one from a Pontifical school in Rome. A half-hour from now, Martin will shoot both a four-minute and a one-minute pitch to voters at the KMOV-TV (Channel 4) downtown studio. It's decided that he will emphasize jobs. Carnahan shot his own clips earlier that morning. He used a TelePrompTer. Martin will not.
Martin's press secretary, Theresa Petry, is making a valiant attempt to eat Rally's, answer e-mails and pack a camera bag at the same time. But now it's time to go. They pile into the pickup; every time they pass an "Ed Martin" sign, the candidate points it out.
Downtown, Martin spies a small spot on Market Street and wonders if he can squeeze in.
"Ed, you're not the best parallel parker," Petry says.
"You see?" the candidate says. "These are the kinds of scurrilous attacks I'm up against."
Inside KMOV, the producer and Martin chat as they stride toward the production room.
"So where do you live?" Martin asks.
"Edwardsville," the producer replies.
"Augh," says Martin. "Not in the district."
Ed Martin is a New Jersey native of Irish stock. His parents both grew up in big families south of Newark. They married, then ventured 65 miles west to a railroad-stop town of 1,000.
His father set up a solo law practice. His mother abandoned a nursing career to watch after Ed, his older sister and younger brother. Young Ed Martin fished, canoed, got stitches, got in trouble, and scurried home when his parents clanged the bell outside the back door.
As a boy, he visited the Jesuit-run Saint Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City, his father's alma mater. A self-described "country kid," Martin was mesmerized. He prevailed on his parents to let him commute three hours every day, by train and bus, in order to attend.
"That was a big pivot in my life," he says. "It made me confident."
At Saint Peter's, he played basketball all four years, but was cut from the baseball team his junior year. The coach broke the news by explaining that the team had no uniforms left; otherwise, Martin could have stayed on. Martin offered to buy another uniform. The coach told him that wasn't the point.
He attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he roomed with the son of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Martin wasn't gunning for a political career just yet, although he was reading "a ton" on his way to an English degree. (He tacked on a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies.)
On a brief cultural immersion trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, as a sophomore, Martin met a peasant farming family that lost several members to dysentery.
"For a twenty-year-old college kid," he says, "that was pretty heavy." It spurred him to apply for a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study infant mortality and water supply in Indonesia, which he received in 1992.
"I don't know that I developed any grand theory," Martin says of his yearlong stay, though he gained an appreciation for how differently Southeast Asian Muslims bathe (by using a small scoop of water) and worship (with daily calls to prayer).
Although he'd already snagged a Rotary scholarship to stay in Indonesia a second year, he grew so "miserably homesick" that he asked for a transfer to Italy instead. He spent two years studying philosophy at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, then finally landed at Saint Louis University in August 1995 for law school.
Typical Ed Martin chutzpah was on display within three days of his arrival. He rode the MetroLink to the old Busch Stadium, where he informed security guards he had Vatican press credentials (which, technically, he did). "There I was, up in the press box, pretending to really be a journalist," he recalls fondly, bragging of chats with Bob Costas and the Cardinals' management.
At Saint Louis University, Martin earned both a law degree and a master's in health-care ethics. A work-study job as a campus museum security guard helped pay for it. When he and then archbishop Justin Rigali discovered they had mutual friends in Rome, they began sharing meals together.
Upon Rigali's invitation, Martin worked in the Vatican for a month as a lay "youth expert" during a 1997 conference of bishops from the Americas. Martin helped with translation, spoke regularly with the pope and did the first reading at the Mass that kicked off the gathering in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
"The place was full," Martin recalls. "Standing in St. Peter's, with the pope sitting behind you, looking out, it was pretty amazing."
Martin's first taste of leadership — and political controversy — came in 1998, when he finished law school and Rigali tapped him to direct the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.