JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Even as a number of legislators planned Thursday to call for the resignation of Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock, a number of his constituents – the 68 members of the Missouri Republican State Committee – said this week they support him remaining in office.
Following two weeks of criticism following the suicide of State Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor who told those closest to him that he believed Hancock had waged a ‘whisper campaign’ against him that he was Jewish, more than a dozen members of the committee said they believed Hancock should stay in office to fulfill his promise to reinvigorate the party’s fundraising and messaging operations.
On Tuesday afternoon, PoliticMo sent messages to 59 of the 68 members of the committee by email and received a number of responses, all of which were in Hancock’s favor.
Sarah Walsh, a committeewoman from Columbia, said the first she heard of an alleged whisper campaign against Schweich came from the Schweich campaign, itself.
“I asked for evidence on several occasions and received nothing that could be substantiated,” she said.
Dick Peerson, a committeeman from Jefferson City, also a Hancock supporter, said he, too, first heard of an alleged “whisper campaign” by Schweich’s team. “There was no such thing by Hancock,” he said.
Walsh said she supported Hancock initially and that she believes he can continue as chairman.
Debbie Rector, a committeewoman from Van Buren, said she supports Hancock to remain as the party’s chairman.
“I voted for him and I vetted him very carefully. People I know and trust have trusted him for years. He has proven himself as an honest, forthright and trustworthy man even in situations where it would have benefited him to hide the truth or simply continue with the status quo,” she said.
She said she disagreed that Hancock was anti-Semitic. “I think it is probably the opposite: he feels that Jews worship the same God as we do and are God’s chosen people,” she said.
David Kelsay, a committeeman for the 31st Senatorial District, said he was an initial supporter of Hancock since he announced his campaign for chairman last year. He said he thinks Hancock should stay on as chairman.
“I wasn’t familiar with the story that John Hancock had engaged in a ‘whisper campaign’ against Schweich until Tom’s suicide. I had heard that, during John’s campaign for chair, there were reports that Schweich supporters had called and told committee members that John was anti-Semitic. I personally did not receive such a call myself,” Kelsay said. “The fact that John received 50 out of the 68 Committee votes says that those who did receive such a call dismissed the idea of John being anti-Semitic quickly.”
Kelsay, who said he has known Hancock for two decades, said he did not believe Hancock was anti-Semitic.
“It is an understatement to say that he has had plenty of public exposure. If there were any tendencies in his nature towards anti-Semitism, they would have shown and been exposed by now,” he said.
Kelsey added that he thinks Hancock can keep his promise to fix the Missouri Republican Party’s finances, a key pillar of his case to be chairman.
“It is possible that a small percentage of donors may be initially hesitant, but as time bears out the lack of evidence for any of the accusations against John regarding the so-called ‘whisper campaign,’ I believe they will come around,” he said.
Rector said she agreed.
“This all will pass,” she said.
Ted Engler, a committeeman from University Township, said he was “devastated” by the news of Schweich’s death, but was not ready to endorse or oppose Hancock to remain on as chairman.
“Many of the State Committee Members agree that it is too early and a lot of information is lacking in order to proceed in any special direction,” he said last week.
Trish Vincent, Schweich’s former chief of staff who served as the vice chairman of the Missouri Republican State Committee, said Wednesday she disagreed with Hancock’s side of the story.