The Missouri 2016 Republican gubernatorial race took a sad twist when the leading candidate, State Auditor Tom Schweich, took his own life yesterday by self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Schweich had called reporters for the Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to come to a press conference at his home in Clayton, Missouri yesterday morning shortly before he took his life. Schweich, a highly-regarded politician known for fighting corruption, was reported to be upset about a Republican political consultant and incoming state GOP leader raising his Jewish ancestry in a way he viewed as anti-Semitic and planned to address that issue at the afternoon press conference with the two reporters. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“What we know at this point suggests an apparent suicide,” Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy told reporters in a news conference Thursday afternoon. He said there was “nothing to support anything other than that at this point,” and said Schweich died from a single gunshot wound . . .
Earlier in the day, a police source told the Post-Dispatch that Schweich’s wife was in another room of their house when she heard her husband making phone calls, followed by a gunshot. Schweich had been shot in the head, the source said.
A 911 call was made from Schweich’s home at 9:48 a.m., seven minutes after Schweich had left a voicemail requesting an interview with a Post-Dispatch reporter.
Schweich was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital where he was pronounced dead, Murphy said.
Schweich, 54, had a cadre of mentors and supporters in his gubernatorial run that included former U.S. Sens. John Danforth and Jim Talent, both Missouri Republicans, and friend and wealthy campaign contributor Sam Fox, the former U.S. ambassador to Belgium. “I was never so surprised in my entire life to find out this happened,” Fox told the Post-Dispatch Thursday. “This guy was brilliant. This guy was unique. He had so much talent.”
Fox said he had scheduled a fundraiser at his house for Schweich. “He was raising money,” Fox said. “The money was pouring in.”
He said Schweich had not expressed any signs of personal or professional turmoil.
“None whatsoever,” Fox said. “Not to me nor to any friends that I’m aware.” . . .
On Tuesday morning, Schweich confided in Post-Dispatch Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger that he believed that John Hancock, the newly elected chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, had spread disinformation about Schweich’s religion. That topic was what Schweich wanted to discuss with reporters for the Post-Dispatch and the Associated Press Thursday.
In several conversations via text and phone in the days leading up to Thursday morning, Schweich told Messenger that Hancock mentioned to people in passing that Schweich was Jewish. Schweich wasn’t Jewish. He was a member of the Church of St. Michael & St. George, an Episcopal congregation in Clayton.
Schweich told Messenger he believed the mentions of his faith heritage were intended to harm him politically in a gubernatorial primary in which many Republican voters are evangelical Christians. He said his grandfather was Jewish, and that he was “very proud of his connection to the Jewish faith.”
“He said his grandfather taught him to never allow any anti-Semitism go unpunished, no matter how slight,” Messenger said in a written statement . . .