Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, a top Republican contender to succeed Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in 2016, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on Thursday, according to local media outlets.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the 54-year-old Schweich was rushed to a St. Louis-area hospital this morning for what his office told reporters was a "medical situation." A Schweich spokesman later issued a statement announcing his death, but did not specify the cause. A police source told the Post-Dispatch that Schweich shot himself at home, while his wife was in another room.
News of Schweich's passing prompted an outpouring of grief and condolences across the Missouri political spectrum. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who was state auditor from 1999 to 2007, tweeted, "I am very sad and hurt so much for Tom Schweich's family. Good man. Dedicated public servant. Hug those you love." McCaskill's colleague, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, paid tribute to Schweich as "very smart, very capable, outstanding at his job, and a good friend."
Former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, with whom Schweich was engaged in a fierce battle for the GOP's gubernatorial nod, remembered her late opponent as "an extraordinary man with an extraordinary record of service to our state and nation.” A Remington Research Group poll released this month found Schweich barely edging Hanaway in a wide-open GOP primary contest, taking 16 percent of the vote to Hanaway's 13 percent. Politico reports that the rivalry between the two Republicans had grown particularly nasty in recent weeks:
The battle between Schweich and Hanaway had grown increasingly ugly in recent months, putting the auditor at odds with some elements of the Missouri Republican establishment. Last month, Schweich lambasted powerhouse Missouri donor Rex Sinquefield for helping bankroll Hanaway’s gubernatorial campaign.
And last week, a political group with ties to Hanaway’s allies launched a radio ad that called Schweich “a weak candidate” who “could be easily confused for the deputy sheriff of Mayberry.”
Schweich was also involved earlier this week in a bizarre episode featuring the newly elected chairman of the state GOP John Hancock. According to the website PoliticoMO, Hancock flew to Jefferson City Monday to confront Schweich, who he believed was preparing to level unflattering and unspecific allegations against him. The meeting never occurred, according to the report.
Elected state auditor in 2010 and re-elected without Democratic opposition in 2014, Schweich was a Harvard-trained corporate lawyer who began his political career as an aide to longtime Missouri Sen. John Danforth. Schweich went on to serve as Danforth's chief of staff after President George W. Bush appointed the former senator as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Schweich continued in that role under Danforth's successors Anne Patterson and John Bolton. He then worked for the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs bureau in the Bush State Department.
Besides his wife, Schweich is survived by two children.