SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – As U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt readies for his re-election campaign next year, the Republican is keeping himself well away from the intra-party fight that is pitting some of his closest, hometown donors against the newly elected chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, John Hancock.
On Saturday – a day after three donors expressed concerns with Hancock after he accused Joplin businessman David Humphreys, also a large donor, of signing on to a campaign led by former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth “to destroy my name” when he signed an affidavit claiming Hancock had made anti-Semitic comments – Blunt said whether or not Hancock should step aside in light of changes should be up to the state committee.
“I think that’s the kind of thing that the 68 people on the Republican State Committee and the state chairman, John Hancock, have to think about,” Blunt told reporters here at the Greene County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Days gathering. “The real focus right now should be on how are Republicans lining up for the job of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer – opportunities for open seats we haven’t had for a while. I think we’re going to take full advantage of them.”
The issue of whether Hancock should stay as chairman has roiled Missouri Republicans, exposing wide gaps among its leaders following the suicide of State Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor, last month.
Hancock, of course, has repeatedly denied the allegations being pushed by those who were close to Schweich that he had said Schweich was Jewish to lure away campaign support.
The other Republican candidate, former Missouri Speaker of the House Catherine Hanaway, has remained absent from the campaign trail since Schweich’s death. Her absence has left a void that other Republicans – perhaps one without her ties to the negative campaign that preceded Schweich’s death – could take advantage of.
In Springfield, State Sen. Mike Parson smiled, laughed and walked on when asked whether he was considering a run. St. Louis businessman John Brunner, a former candidate for U.S. Senate, was shy when asked (he was in Springfield on Friday meeting with potential donors).
Former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, a Republican whose name has also been touted as a potential candidate huddled privately with some of Schweich’s former advisors throughout the morning, but said in a brief interview that he was not considering a run.
Last week, Blunt was one of a number of Missouri elected officials who refused to join a statement pushed to reporters by the Missouri Republican Party expressing support for Hancock.
Blunt said his decision to not talk about the issue was “not a non-endorsement of John Hancock.” Rather, he said, “this is really the job of the state committee.”