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Schweich tells fellow Republicans to focus on 2014 - and quit 'jumping the gun' for 2016

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 22, 2013 - State Auditor Tom Schweich has a message for all those fellow Republicans who’ve already announced for office in 2016, or about to do so.

His two bits?  Hold off.“I urge fellow Republicans to keep focused on the task at hand:  winning in 2014,” said Schweich in an email sent to GOP allies.

Schweich, of course, is running for re-election in 2014.  In fact, state auditor will be the only statewide office on Missouri ballots – the first time that has happened in more than 20 years.

“I have been reading about fellow Republicans talking about offices that they intend to run for in 2016, with one prominent and well respected state senator already declaring himself a candidate for statewide office in 2016,” Schweich wrote, referring to state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who formally announced just a few days ago that he’s running for attorney general in 2016.

Schweich then bluntly asserted: “This is not good for the party-- or the candidates who make these premature announcements.”

“We still have elections to win in 2014,” he continued – invoking the name of current Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat who already has declared his candidacy for governor in 2016.

“Chris Koster and the new leadership of the Democrat party in Missouri have made it a 2014 priority to end the veto proof majorities that we have in the state legislature,” Schweich said. “I will be running for re-election as auditor in 2014.  We have important county executive and congressional elections in 2014.

“Declaring a candidacy more than three years before the 2016 elections undermines our 2014 effort, and it opens the 2016 candidates up to three years of media scrutiny-- indeed some damaging negative press has already appeared relative to those candidates who have been jumping the gun.”

Schweich might be referring to the recent attacks against state House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, who has made it clear that he plans to run for office in 2016 -- most likely, attorney general.

Jones already has had to defend himself against allegations of possible impropriety because of questions raised about a private limited liability corporation called Missouri Freedom Alliance, that he set up in 2007.

(For his part, Schaefer told The Missouri Times in a statement that he wanted to be transparent with voters about running for attorney general. He added he's not going to run a "vague or ambiguous statewide campaign.")

Schweich's letter may be intended, in part, to bolster his standing as a GOP leader since he is among only two Republicans holding statewide office.

Schweich also may have another reason. He is on a number of Republican short lists as their preferred candidate for governor in 2016, likely taking on Koster.

Schweich's unsaid point? He won't be talking about any such quest until after the 2014 election.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.