March 28, 2015

Missouri GOP Chairman says ‘whispering campaign’ disproven, ‘tired of talking about’ controversy after Schweich death

The Chairman of Missouri’s Republican Party has said he’s not stepping down, and that he is ready to move on from the controversy that has surrounded him since the death of Auditor Tom Schweich.

Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock spoke with Missourinet and affiliate KWIX at KWIX's studios in Moberly.

Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock spoke with Missourinet and affiliate KWIX at KWIX’s studios in Moberly, where he was visiting with party officials from several counties.

John Hancock has been accused of having been part of a whispering campaign saying Schweich was Jewish, that Schweich believed was intended to hurt his race for governor and that allegedly contributed Schweich taking his own life.

Hancock says that has been disproven.

“We now have a police report that says there was no whisper campaign,” Hancock told Missourinet. “Nobody has come forward … if there’s a whisper campaign, you’re going to have dozens of people out there that were whispered to. By definition, that’s a whisper campaign. There clearly was no whisper campaign.”

Hancock says he’s tired of talking about the controversy.

“I’m ready to move on and move beyond it and get to work,” Hancock said.

Not preparing to step down

Hancock made statements last week during an interview on KMOX radio in St. Louis that some believed hinted he was leaning towards stepping down, as some have called for him to do. He told Missourinet the “soul searching” he said he had to do was to consider whether he could be an effective leader for the party.

“I have taken into account all that has happened and all that lies in front of us, and as long as I can do this job and do it well, and lead this party well, I intend to keep doing it,” said Hancock. “The only thing at this point that would cause me to step down is if I came to the conclusion that the Republican party in Missouri would be better off without me, and I just don’t think we’re there yet.”

He also said his reputation has been damaged in the past month, and he had to consider that.

“I’ve got to be in a position to where I can still support my family, and that was a principal concern. I’m feeling better about that possibility now, and I’m feeling better about the party moving forward and I think most people are ready to put this sad chapter behind us,” said Hancock.

Hancock said fundraising for the party has been strong, and he sees that as a sign that he has support from Republicans and the controversy is subsiding.

See Hancock’s statements regarding fundraising:

“We have raised enough in commitments already to eradicate the debt that had been in place and then add some more money in. We’re waiting on the checks to roll in now,” said Hancock. “We have raised north of $100,000 in the last four weeks, and really, there was a couple of those weeks where we really weren’t able to do much, so I’m very gratified with the response of our donors.”

“I always believed that once the truth came out, and I believed the truth would come out … that we would be fine to move forward. Well, the truth is starting to come out,” said Hancock. “The police department has said what they have said, the facts that have been presented don’t support a whisper campaign.”

What can be learned from past month about religion, ethnicity in Missouri politics?

Hancock has said that he might have mistakenly said Schweich was Jewish because he thought that was true, though he denies ever saying it to hurt Schweich politically or with a bigoted connotation. He said his belief that Schweich was Jewish was an assumption on his part, and one he calls, “stupid.”

“I need to be a lot more careful about making assumptions about people. I can assure you I have learned that less through this process,” said Hancock when asked what can be learned from the past month about the role of religion or ethnicity in politics. “Number two, I think we need to get to know our candidates and need to get to know them well. We need to know what their core convictions are, where those come from, how they’re able to articulate those.”

“Out of this tragedy, if it results in us maybe being a little bit more careful and a little bit more thoughtful in the way that we do politics, then that will be a small blessing to come out of this horrible event,” said Hancock.

What to do about attack ads in campaigns?

Asked whether he has changed his focus in campaigning, in light of criticism directed at an ad not connected to Hancock that compared Schweich’s appearance to the television character Barney Fife and said he was easily manipulated and could be squashed like a bug, Hancock says he hasn’t because he already doesn’t condone such tactics.

“I never supported these personally destructive kinds of campaigns. I don’t think there is any place for them,” said Hancock. “I don’t think they work. I don’t think the voters buy them. I think the voters are disgusted by them … I’ve never been supportive of that. I’m supportive of contrast, pointing out differences between two competing visions. That’s an essential and vital part of public discourse in this country.”

Related stories:

Parson not surprised by Schweich death investigation findings, still no decision on run for governor

Missouri GOP vice-chair says support for John Hancock is strong

Missouri GOP chairman not stepping down, denies whispering campaign against Schweich

Schweich staffer: Missouri GOP chair should resign for whispering campaign

Reports:  Schweich called reporters minutes before apparent suicide


Execution date set in Missouri murder-for-hire killing from 2000

The state Supreme Court has set an execution date for a former St. Louis City jailer who was sentenced to death for the murder-for-hire killing of his ex-wife, to whom he owed back child support.

Kimber Edwards  (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Kimber Edwards (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

50-year-old Kimber Edwards is scheduled to die by lethal injection between 6 p.m. May 12 and 5:59 pm May 13, at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre.

Court documents say in 2000 Edwards was facing a felony charge for not paying a year’s worth of child support. He had been offered a plea deal that required him to pay back support when his ex-wife, Kimberly Cantrell was fatally shot at her home in University City on August 22, 2000.

Edwards was later convicted of paying one or two people $1,600 to kill Cantrell. The man he paid that was identified, Ortell Wilson, is serving life in prison for first-degree murder for his part in her murder.  Wilson testified against Kimber.  The other man, known only as “Michael,” was never identified or caught.

Missouri is next scheduled to execute 52-year-old Andre Cole, who murdered a friend of his ex-wife in a dispute over child support. He is set to die by lethal injection April 14.

Two Missouri record fish caught within three days

Two record-breaking fish have been caught in Missouri within a week.

The Department of Conservation reports Burr Edde III of Malta Bend caught a 120-pound, 8-ounce giant blue catfish in the Missouri River in Saline County on March 21. The fish measured 55 and 1/8 inches long and 45 inches around.

It was more than three pounds heavier than the previous record blue catfish caught in 1964 in the Osage River.

He caught the catfish on a trotline, considered by the Department an “alternative method.” The Department tracks records in two categories: pole-and-line and alternative methods. The record for the largest blue catfish caught using a pole-and-line method also came out of the Missouri River, in St. Charles County in 2010.

On Saturday, the largest ever caught on record in Missouri was pulled out of Table Rock Lake. Andy Belobraydic III from Richwoods snagged a 140-pound, 9-ounce paddlefish, slightly larger than the previous record holder, also a paddlefish taken from Table Rock lake in 2002.

That fish was caught in the James River arm of the Lake and measured 56 and 3/4 inches long, and 43 and 3/4 inches around.

Nixon-led Missouri trade mission to Europe enters last leg

A Missouri trade mission led by Governor Jay Nixon has gone from Germany to Spain.

Governor Jay Nixon and other Missouri trade delegation members meet with BMW executives in Munich, Germany.  (courtesy; Governor Nixon's Twitter account, @GovJayNixon)

Governor Jay Nixon and other Missouri trade delegation members meet with BMW executives in Munich, Germany. (courtesy; Governor Nixon’s Twitter account, @GovJayNixon)

The Governor says he wants to do three things with this trade trip: thank those companies that already trade with Missouri, let Missouri business leaders meet with their customers, and to look for ways to expand the already strong trade market Missouri has in Europe.

“I think we’re in a growth zone here. I mean, you’re seeing the economy of our state pick up and I think the fact that we are a great place to do business, I think we’re going to continue to see growth in this export sector to Europe,” Nixon told reporters on a conference call from Munich.

The trip has also visited Italy. Between the three countries it has stopped in, Missouri exports exceeded $577-million in 2014. Nixon hopes to increase Missouri exports, which he said reached $14.1-billion last year, the second highest year on record.

“2012 and 2014 were the two best years on record for export of Missouri goods, and these companies with us and a myriad of others will help us in continuing to create more jobs and make more exports,” said Nixon.

Nixon did not say that any new deals have been sealed during this trip.

Missouri has received international attention since August, when 18-year-old Michael Brown, Junior, was fatally shot by a Ferguson Police officer. Nixon says, though, that incident and the unrest that followed have not been major topics of discussion in his meetings with foreign officials.

“Just the fact that folks were aware of it because of the significant attention that it got, and that we appear to be trying to do some things concretely over the long run that are going to make a difference,” said Nixon.

The trip ends Saturday. It is being paid for by a nonprofit economic development group.

Parson not surprised by Schweich death investigation findings, still no decision on run for governor

A Missouri state senator who delivered an emotional speech in the senate chamber after the death of Tom Schweich has said he’s not surprised at the findings of the Clayton Police Department investigation of that death.

Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) speaks at the monthly meeting of the Randolph County Pachyderms.

Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) speaks at the monthly meeting of the Randolph County Pachyderms.

The Department said it has no doubt Schweich fired the shot that took his life nearly a month ago. It said it found no evidence of the whispering campaign Schweich believed was being conducted against him saying he was Jewish, which he believed was meant to hurt him among evangelical Christian voters.

Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) said that’s what he expected.

“Just because I’m a law enforcement officer and a sheriff and have worked many suicides, I wasn’t expecting anything different,” Parson told Missourinet. “They’re going to look at things on a factual basis, on the evidence of what’s criminal.”

Parson, who two weeks ago joined other GOP lawmakers in calling for the state party’s Chairman, John Hancock, to step down saying the party has failed to take a stand against negative campaigning, said he has no more to add to what he’s already said.

“I said my piece and I’m done with that, and we’ll see what happens from there,” said Parson. “Everybody else can do as they please, he can do as he pleases, and that’s pretty well where I left it.”

Hancock responded to those lawmakers’ call for the party to suggest changes to campaign financing, to change the negative nature of advertising, and to reform ethics saying he looks to legislators to lead on such issues.

Parson said that’s a fair expectation when it comes to passing laws, but it doesn’t answer his concern.

“I’m talking about ethical conduct … we all know what that is,” Parson said. “Everybody knows what’s going on and you’re either going to keep going like you’re going or you’re truly going to try to change it and make a little difference, and I think we’ve got the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Randolph County Pachyderms, Parson did not mention Hancock by name and said it wasn’t necessary to “rehash” what has happened in the past month, but he again addressed the issues he sees with how campaigns are conducted.

“You’ve got to start figuring out how you’re going to deal with people, because we’ve gotten to the point in the political arena where we accept somebody telling lies about another person, somebody saying things about them to destroy their families,” said Parson.

He said he wasn’t just talking about the situation regarding Schweich.

“It’s happened over and over and we’ve seen it happen over the years. I have, and it gets worse, and it gets worse, whether it be a phony commercial, whether it be a phony committee … whatever it might be. But that’s not who we are as Missourians,” said Parson. “For some reason we say it’s okay to win at all costs, but it’s not okay to win at all costs when you’ve got to destroy somebody’s lives … this has been going on for way too long and it needs to stop.”

Possible ‘Parson for Governor’ campaign?

Parson said on Friday he is considering running for governor, but told Missourinet he hasn’t made a decision whether he will.

“It’s something I didn’t even dream about five weeks ago,” said Parson. “I said on the Senate floor I wasn’t going to just let everything go by and not do anything anymore, and if you’re going to say you want change then you probably need to go out there and you need to make your case and see if people believe in you or not, and that’s what we’re going to be thinking about doing.”

Parson said more would be known about his political plans, “in the near future.” He has vowed he will not use in a  campaign the type of attack ads he says might have contributed to Schweich’s suicide.