5 Things We Learned About the Suicide of Tom Schweich
In our investigative feature about former Missouri candidate for governor, Tom Schweich, who took his own life shortly after announcing his campaign in early 2015, it became clear that a number of forces weighed on him. The GOP hopeful was a lifelong overachiever — degrees from Yale and Harvard, partner at an international white-shoe law firm, chief of staff to three U.S. ambassadors, second-ranking international law enforcement official at the State Department, professor, author and twice-elected auditor of the state of Missouri. But Schweich was also a man coming apart. Mental health experts agree there is almost never a simple answer for why someone chooses to commit suicide, but in an effort to better understand the tragedy, we spoke with nearly 50 people who knew him, and obtained previously unpublished private notes, emails and texts that provide new details of the events leading up to Schweich’s death. Here are some of the more troubling points that we found, both about Schweich and the influence of money in politics in the state he promised to reform.
Schweich held a grudge against Ted Cruz’s campaign manager
Ted Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, known for his brutal win-at-all-costs tactics, including digging through opponents’ trashcans and sending young staffers posing as volunteers into rival campaign offices, was a powerful player in Missouri politics. In a pair of op-eds Schweich drafted in early 2014 — the first titled, “Jeff and Me: Influence and Intimidation in the Missouri Republican Party,” and the second, “Political Consultants Who Act More Like Mobsters Than Advisors Are Destroying the Republican Party” — which were never published, Schweich details how Roe allegedly threatened to “gut” and “kill” one of Schweich’s aides, and later to “take Tom out.” In February 2015, Roe created a radio spot targeting Schweich that appeared on Missouri talk radio. A narrator imitating the southern drawl of Frank Underwood, the murderous Democrat from House of Cards, called Schweich “weak” and mocked his appearance. “Just look at him,” the Unerwood stand-in sneered. “He could be easily confused for the deputy sheriff of Mayberry” — a reference to the bumbling Barney Fife character from The Andy Griffith Show. Not two weeks later, Schweich committed suicide.
Missouri’s Republican party has a problem with Jews
Schweich’s father and grandfather were Jewish, a fact Schweich proudly embraced, even though he, his wife and two kids were members of the Episcopalian church. But in personal notes, Schweich detailed how questions of his faith continued to circulate within the GOP for years. In one personal note, Schweich quotes a Republican member of Congress who told him during his first campaign for auditor that “if people think you are Jewish, you will never win the Cape area” — an apparent reference to the evangelical, heavily white region in southeast Missouri. A former state senator allegedly told him that “my ‘funny sounding name’ will really hurt me in the primary because people will think I am Jewish.” In the months before Schweich’s death, the chair of the Missouri Republican Party, a veteran operative named John Hancock, incorrectly told a number of donors that Schweich was Jewish, which Schweich regarded as part of an anti-Semitic campaign to hurt his standing among Missouri’s Christian Republican voters.
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