Prominent Missouri Republican David Steelman and a lawmaker from southeast Missouri said Wednesday that state GOP chairman John Hancock should resign.
Steelman, a member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators and a former lawmaker, tweeted Wednesday that the Missouri GOP “needs to find its soul. To do requires new leadership.”
Hancock has been linked to an anti-Semitic whispering campaign aimed at Tom Schweich, the former state auditor who killed himself last week. Hancock has denied that he was trying to smear Schweich.
A Rolla lawyer, Steelman also told Deirdre Shesgreen of the Springfield News-Leader that Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt could demand Hancock’s resignation and get it.
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“Senator Blunt is the most senior Republican in the state of Missouri. If he wants John Hancock to resign, John Hancock will resign,” Steelman said. “If John Hancock doesn't resign, I will assume that's because the senator does not want him to.”
Blunt declined on Wednesday to say whether Hancock should go.
“The state chairman is selected by the state committee, not selected by anybody else,” Blunt told the News-Leader.
Also Wednesday, state Rep. Paul Fitzwater, a Potosi Republican, called for Hancock’s resignation, saying Hancock had been “tainted” by allegations that he was involved in an anti-Semitic whispering campaign aimed at Tom Schweich, the former state auditor.
“It’s so bad that he needs to go,” Fitzwater said of Hancock. “That’s the feeling of the mood I get from everyone here.”
Schweich, a leading candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, committed suicide Thursday in his Clayton home. In his eulogy Tuesday, former Missouri Sen. Jack Danforth said the whispering campaign bothered Schweich greatly.
Fitzwater, a three-term lawmaker, said a “couple dozen” other lawmakers also believe Hancock should depart.
“I don’t believe we can prosper as a party” with Hancock at the helm, he said. “I just feel he needs to step down.”
Fitzwater had endorsed Schweich for governor, saying the auditor had stood by him when Fitzwater voted against a tax cut a couple of years ago.
“I don’t think we should attack people personally,” Fitzwater said. “If you attack a factual voting record, that’s one thing.”
The Republican state committee has the power to hire or fire a party chairman. Lawmakers can only express their sentiments. The committee elected Hancock on Feb. 21 in Kansas City.
Also Wednesday, House Speaker Pro Tem Denny Hoskins, a Warrensburg Republican, said a number of his colleagues want Hancock to step down. Hoskins said he wanted to take the weekend to consider the situation.