JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Political strategists on both sides of the aisle assembled on This Week in Missouri Politics for a special episode that devoted much of its time to discussing the life and death of former State Auditor Tom Schweich.
Schweich was buried last week following his sudden suicide at a packed ceremony that featured a fiery homily from his longtime friend, Sen. Jack Danforth that called on the state’s political elite to consider whether or not campaigns had to be as dirty as they were.
Danforth’s speech has been followed by both public and private debates about the future of Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock, who Schweich told reporters was spreading a “whisper campaign” about his Jewish heritage in an effort to help Schweich’s Republican primary opponent and former client of Hancock’s, Catherine Hanaway. Michael Sean Kelley, principal at the Kelley Group, said Danforth did the right thing in bringing the issue to light.
“I’m grateful that [Danforth] put a spotlight on negative campaigning and the conversation that needs to take place,” Kelley said. “[Hancock] is not an anti-Semite. What John [Hancock] is is a good person and a good man. [Schweich’s suicide] isn’t political. What we’re facing right now, it’s human. When you have someone who takes the act of suicide…and try to come to a rational outcome of it, I think that’s simplistic. It’s dangerous. It’s harmful. It’s harmful to the family, to the friends, of Auditor Schweich. It’s harmful to John Hancock and his family. We all need to take a giant step back and look at this.”
Guests spent much of the show reflecting what is now emerging as the legacy of Schweich: his energy and fearlessness.
“He went up against the drug lords in Afghanistan,” said David Barklage, Principal at Barklage and Knodell. “You look at him and you’re like, ‘This guy did that?’ And he did. He was fearless.”
“He was putting a greater amount of accountability to our school districts, taking tough stances against our tax credit programs that need more evaluation,” said Travis Brown, author and partner at Pelopidas, a lobbying firm with ties to Rex Sinquefield. “He was doing the exactly the things that he sought out to do…the legacy of his record needs to stand and stand tall.”
Brown went on to address rumors that the Sinqeufield-backed group was responsible for airing a particularly vicious radio ad that emerged in the week leading to Schweich’s death. The ad pokes fun at Schweich’s appearance, likening him to Barney Fife, and calls him a “little bug” that can be squashed.
Brown said that Pelopidas was in no way responsible for the ad.
The show briefly addressed 2016 and broader electoral politics. Kelley, a Democrat, said he believed that crowded Republican primaries and the “failed experiment” of Kansas tax cuts would drive Missouri back toward the political center.
The panel also appeared convinced that Hanaway would likely earn a new opponent in her race for Governor. John Brunner, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Eric Greitens were all named as potential candidates.
Stream the full episode here: http://thisweekinmissouripolitics.com/2015/03/07/full-episode/