Just a month after Missouri politics was jolted by the suicide of state auditor and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tom Schweich, the state was dealt another blow Monday morning when it learned of another self-inflicted death by gun— that of Robert "Spence" Jackson, who had been Schweich's spokesman in the auditor's office and a close friend.
Jackson, 44, apparently shot himself to death sometime Friday or Saturday, and the political world of the Show Me State is still reeling from the shocking news.
Jackson's death came two days after the lone announced contender for the Republican nomination for governor in 2016, former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, re-emerged on the campaign trail after weeks of near-seclusion following the funeral of opponent Schweich.
In addition, the latest tragic development took place as at least two other Republicans were poised to enter the race to succeed lame duck Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.
Although Jackson left a suicide note, Jefferson City police officials have yet to reveal its contents. Friends who spoke to Newsmax under anonymity said he had been severely depressed by the death of Schweich on Feb. 26 and, as one friend told us, "especially upset that there was no public retribution against other Republicans who had been linked to events which [reportedly] drove Tom Schweich to take his own life."
The source was referring to State Party Chairman John Hancock, who was accused by Schweich days before his death of telling several GOP contributors he thought that the auditor was Jewish. (Schweich, who was Christian, had a Jewish grandfather and said he was "proud" of that; Hancock has never denied telling contributors he thought Schweich was Jewish but insists he meant no harm.)
In a much-publicized letter March 5 decrying what he considers "the serious deterioration of the values and ethics of folks associated with the Missouri Republican Party," former Reagan administration official and longtime state GOP activist Paul DeGregorio wrote party leaders, calling on Hancock to resign.
"I don't like who John Hancock has become," wrote DeGregorio, an internationally-recognized expert on fair elections. "To me he now represents the worst of all our political system. To me, his actions helped push Tom Schweich over the edge."
DeGregorio's letter went on to say that Hanaway, Schweich's leading opponent for governor, "is culpable in encouraging campaigns that go over the top."
Days before Schweich's death, a radio spot was heard statewide branding him "a weak candidate for governor" and claiming Democrats "will squash him like a bug that he is and put our candidate [state Attorney General Chris Koster] in the governor's mansion."
The spot was the product of an independent committee known as Citizens for Fairness that was registered until recently to Kansas City lawyer James Thomas, who is Hanaway's campaign treasurer and has close ties to Hanaway campaign quarterback Jeff Roe.
"It wasn't my style. I wouldn't have run it," Hanaway told The New York Times on Sunday.
After weeks of being out of the public eye following Schweich's funeral, Hanaway resurfaced on the campaign trail last week and spoke at four different Lincoln Day dinners.
But now it is clear she will face fresh primary opposition. Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens has so far raised $400,000 for an exploratory committee that he started two days before Schweich's death. First-time candidate Greitens, who is also a Rhodes Scholar and best-selling author, is Jewish and has spoken extensively about the influence of his faith in his life.
Also reportedly poised to get in the Republican primary are state Sen. Mike Parson, a former Polk County sheriff, and multimillionaire St. Louis businessman John Brunner, who placed second in the three-candidate primary for U.S. Senate in 2012, which was won by controversial nominee Todd Aiken.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.