John Hancock, a long-time GOP consultant and a former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, assumed the chairmanship of the party Saturday in Kansas City.
The GOP State Committee elected Hancock, a former two-time candidate for secretary of state, overwhelmingly. He picked up 50 of 68 votes to win on the first ballot.
In a pair of speeches, Hancock described the scope of the challenge ahead and urged Republicans to set aside differences.
“We have a governor who will not lead,” he said of Democrat Jay Nixon. He said Attorney General Chris Koster, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, was “slowly selling off his office to the highest bidder.”
Hancock directly addressed concerns that his political consulting work could pose a conflict-of-interest. He pledged that his firm, John Hancock & Associates, would do no work for candidates or the party. His firm specializes in deep background research of candidates.
Hancock assumes leadership of a party that’s ascendant at the Statehouse level where it holds historic majorities in the General Assembly. But even as Missouri has become more Republican, the party has struggled to win statewide offices.
In fact, it’s held the governor’s office for only four years since 1993.
The party that Hancock assumes from former chair Ed Martin is also tens of thousands of dollars in debt and faces a primary for governor that now has three candidates and could soon have several more.
The aggressive tone of the early infighting between former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and state Auditor Tom Schweich has some Republicans nervous.
Other candidates for party chair insisted the party needs vast improvements in get-out-the-vote technology and grass-roots organization.
In a straw poll of the state committee, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was the preference for president while Hanaway won for governor. Vote totals were not immediately announced.
Hancock said he will name former party spokesman Jonathan Prouty as the party’s next executive director.