JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Missouri lawmaker on Monday said his fellow Republicans responsible for a brutal campaign against former state Auditor Tom Schweich that preceded his apparent suicide last week “should be held accountable” for their actions.
Speaking Monday on the floor of the Missouri Senate, Sen. Mike Parson, a Republican who supported Schweich’s campaign for governor over former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, said negative personal and politics – like that espoused in an ad that made fun of Schweich’s appearance the weekend before he died – should be viewed as unacceptable.
“Tom made the decision to take his own life. There’s not much way around that,” said Parson. “However, that choice was brought on by way of the negative side of politics and the people that work under fictitious names and fictitious mailboxes. Shame on them.”
The advertisement was produced by the Kansas City-based political consultant Jeff Roe. Roe, who works for a number of politicians around the country from Hanaway to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, has produced similar ads before, and even won an award for one his firm, Axiom Strategies, produced last year in Kansas.
Parson was also critical of an alleged whisper campaign that is said to have begun in conservative Southwest Missouri – which Schweich believed to be led by the Missouri Republican Party’s new chairman John Hancock – that the auditor was Jewish. He was not, and Hancock has denied the allegation.
“Why was the question even asked in the first place? I have to wonder why anyone involved in this strategy wondered if they were pushing too far,” Parson said. “I want to believe some of them did. I want to believe that someone involved would admit to making a poor judgement call and be wiling to apologize.”
Parson and other lawmakers will head to St. Louis on Tuesday for a memorial service for Schweich. After the service ends, many in Republican politics here believe the political fallout – spanning from Hancock to Hanaway to Roe – may happen next.
Parson, pointing to a number of other Senators who have announced runs for statewide office in 2016, pled for a more civil tone in the upcoming campaigns, noting that, “If we don’t set the example, people aren’t going to believe in us or the system no more.”
“We could start talking about who we are, articulating the difference between us,” he said “I will no longer stand by and let other people destroy other people’s lives using false and demeaning statements to win elections.”