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With Senate perhaps settled, next GOP fight could be for state auditor

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 15, 2009 - State Rep. Allen Icet's announcement Monday that he's running for state auditor could signal that the Missouri Republican Party is about to replace one intra-party struggle for another.

Icet, R-Wildwood and chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, launched his candidacy just days after another St. Louis area Republican, visiting Washington University law professor Thomas Schweich, announced that he was ditching his possible bid for the U.S. Senate and considering a run for state auditor instead.

Schweich -- an ally of former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., and a former member of the Bush administration -- had been encouraged to switch aspirations by Republican activists seeking to clear the Senate path for U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford. (Party leaders are hoping that another potential Blunt rival, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, follows suit and picks another office, possibly Blunt's U.S. House seat.)

Schweich said in a brief interview Monday night that his plans regarding state auditor aren't altered by Icet's decision. "I'm just still looking at it, as I was before," Schweich.

But some close to Schweich have said that he wasn't interested in shifting from one spirited primary fight to another.

Icet is close to the state GOP's religious-conservative wing and appears to have gotten encouragement to jump in early, before any behind-the-scenes agreements were struck by party leaders on behalf of Schweich.

Icet said in a statement Monday that his work on the Budget Committee helped suit him for the job as state auditor.

"The auditor is the top taxpayer advocate and watchdog in the state, responsible for rooting out waste, fraud and abuse of our tax dollars," he said. "Over the past four years as House Budget chair I've worked to bring prudent fiscal management to the state's budget.

As Missouri's next state auditor, I will use that experience to continue protecting taxpayers by fighting for accountability and transparency in state spending."

This reporter was out of town and off-duty Monday when Icet conducted Monday's conference call. However, various accounts by other outlets (click here and here) indicate that he declined to attack the Democratic incumbent, state Auditor Susan Montee, who is seeking re-election.

Icet has an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M, and a masters in business administration from Washington University. He was first elected to the state House in 2002. Because of term limits, he can't seek re-election in 2010.

Various other Republicans are rumored to looking at the state auditor spot, which often has served as a springboard to higher office.

U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., started out as a state auditor before running for governor. So did fellow Republican John Ashcroft, who briefly held the post (he was appointed by Bond, but lost an election bid) before moving on to state attorney general, governor and then U.S. senator.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.