(AP) – A Missouri state senator, his voice cracking with emotion on Monday, challenged his political colleagues to clean up their campaign tactics following the death of gubernatorial candidate and State Auditor Tom Schweich in an apparent suicide.
Schweich fatally shot himself last Thursday, just minutes after calling reporters to say he wanted to go public with allegations that the Missouri Republican Party chairman had made anti-Semitic comments about him. A Schweich spokesman said he also had been upset recently about a new negative radio ad that belittled his physical appearance and integrity as an opening salvo in the Republican primary for the 2016 governor’s race.
Republican state Sen. Mike Parson took to the Senate floor Monday to denounce a political environment in which opposition researchers and shadowy political committees are used to smear the reputation of rival candidates with “totally misleading statements, outright lies and propaganda.”
“It has become a way to destroy one’s character, to destroy one’s integrity and their honor, not to mention destroying their families,” said Parson, of Bolivar, who had supported Schweich’s campaign. “Today it seems as though everything is done to win an election by any means at any cost.”
As senators sat silently listening, Parson challenged his colleagues – calling out several of them by the office they hold or are seeking – to join him in committing to refrain from false accusations and demeaning statements and to not support any candidates who uses such tactics.
Many of the state’s top elected officials are expected to attend Schweich’s funeral Tuesday in Clayton. Among those scheduled to speak is former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, a Missouri Republican who was a friend and co-worker of Schweich’s and who has been outspoken against the uncompromising nature of modern politics.