Missourians, whether part of the political scene or not were shocked by the apparent suicide a few weeks ago of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich. Up until that time, Schweich might have seemed like a guy who was in control. Great family, had sailed easily to re-election last fall, and had announced a run for Governor in 2016. If there were a primary, the only other GOP candidate announced thus far is former Missouri Speaker of the House Catherine Hanaway.
But the sudden and almost bizarre circumstances surrounding Schweich’s death may have many wondering, is the no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners, Chicago brand of politics taking hold in the Show-Me state?
A piece by John Gizzi at Newsmax sheds some rather nasty light on possible answers to that question. A radio ad playing state-wide, talked about Schweich being a “weak” candidate, and compared him to Barney Fife, actor Don Knotts character on “The Andy Griffith Show”. According to Gizzi and Newsmax, the ad was paid for by a group called “Citizens For Fairness”. The group had been registered to James Thomas, a lawyer from the Kansas City area, who just happens to be Hanaway’s campaign treasurer. Thomas has close ties to a man named Jeff Roe. Roe is well-known in Missouri GOP circles for his hard-core campaign style. There is talk that Hanaway’s ties to the radio ads may motivate others to throw their hat in the ring. Among those being mentioned as a possible contender, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.
Schweich had also accused newly elected Missouri State GOP Chair John Hancock of being behind a whisper campaign that he was Jewish. Hancock says that no such campaign was afloat. He says he did think that Schweich was Jewish and if he had said this to someone it would have not been in a negative manner.
So are Missourians comfortable with this kind of politics? Are they willing to accept the “win at all costs” mentality that grips places like Chicago and Detroit?
The answer may be yes and no. In pockets of the state like St. Louis and Kansas City, where Democrats have ruled for decades, incidents like these might not raise many eyebrows, but what about in the more traditionally red parts of the state? Rural areas where everyone knows each other and a handshake is still good enough to seal any deal? Will it fall to those folks who still expect honest campaigning and elections to police those who might dismiss a guy like Tom Schweich as just too thin-skinned for politics?
As former Senator John Danforth asked as he eulogized Tom Schweich, is this the new normal? Perhaps as Danforth said, be angry that politics has become so “hideously wrong”, and make it our duty to make it something better.
It is not the Chicago way, but it is a winner every time.