More than two weeks after the shocking death of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, the new chairman of the Missouri Republican Party appears positioned to hang onto his office.
Despite a myriad of predictions that John Hancock would have to resign, he is moving ahead with the actual work of managing a party and preparing it for the 2016 elections.
In his final days, Schweich was said to be furious at Hancock for an alleged anti-Semetic whispering campaign last fall. In fact, among the final words he ever spoke centered on his frustration over what he believed to be Hancock’s role in undermining his candidacy based on Schweich’s faith. According to those close to Schweich, Hancock mentioned to other Republicans that Schweich was Jewish, which he was not.
But Hancock has adamantly denied any involvement in a whispering campaign, saying pointedly that it never happened. And, he adds, no one has stepped forward to contend that they witnessed such an act.
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Instead, Hancock has gone on the offense, as political operatives like himself might suggest to any embattled pol. He’s released emails from former Missouri senator and Schweich confidant Jack Danforth that suggested that Hancock had dealt with the controversy in November and had Danforth’s blessing to move forward as chairman.
Hancock also released testimonials from nearly two dozen former and current GOP officials and activists who said they backed him.
On Sunday, Hancock upped the ante by suggesting on the “This Week in Missouri Politics” television program that he was the one who had been subject to a whispering campaign.
“This was a campaign against me that included telling people that I was anti-Semetic and that I had made anti-Semetic statements and so forth,” Hancock said. “It was not true then. It’s not true now. There’s never been any evidence because I didn’t do it.”
Hancock didn’t say who might have been behind such a campaign.
In the interview, Hancock said he once told Schweich that he would personally back Schweich’s GOP rival for governor, Catherine Hanaway. Hancock noted that he had once worked for Hanaway.
He said he told Schweich this “just because I was honest with him.” Hancock also insisted that he told Schweich that the party would remain neutral.
Hancock also repeated his assertion that he has no memories of every discussing Schweich’s religion with anybody, but added, “For four years, I thought he was Jewish, so it’s possible I could have said that Tom was Jewish to somebody. I’m just being honest.”
Last week, a group of GOP lawmakers called for Hancock to resign for the good of the party. Of that development, Hancock responded, “If they ever find themselves accused of false allegations or the subject of rumors or untruths said about them...if they ever find themselves in that position as I have found myself, I’ll be the first one to defend them.
“It is wrong to inject politics into a tragedy like this.”
Hancock described his plans for the future, saying he would begin on Monday to raise money for the party, which he said was in difficult financial shape. The party, he said, also faces big challenges developing a sophisticated get-out-the-vote apparatus.
So far, neither Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, former Sen. Kit Bond (who has already backed Hancock publicly) nor Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder have called for Hancock to step down. If any one of those three did, Hancock’s future would be in doubt.
Ultimately, Hancock reports to the state GOP committee, which hired him at a recent party meeting in Kansas City. But no interest appears to have surfaced within that group to demand Hancock’s removal.
But save for that, or an unexpected development, Hancock is poised to hang on.
“Now is the time to unify our party, not divide it,” he told reporters last week.