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Schweich Ups Ante In GOP Jockeying For Big Donors For 2016

Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich.
(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)
Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich.

State Auditor Tom Schweich has yet to decide whether to run for governor in 2016, but he’s making clear that lots of high-profile fellow Republicans want him to do so.

On Thursday, Schweich’s allies released “an open letter’’ signed by more than 120 donors and party activists who want him to run for governor.

The aim of Schweich’s supporters is to portray him as a better choice, backed by more party big shots, than former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, who already has declared her candidacy – and has promoted her own high-profile support.

Thursday's letter, which praises Schweich for his performance as auditor, is signed by dozens of current or former officeholders on the local, legislative and congressional levels, from all over the state.

The list of signers include such big GOP names as former U.S. Sens. Jim Talent and John C. Danforth, as well as St. Louis County Republican Party chairman Bruce Buwalda, St. Charles County GOP chairman Joe Brazil, local tea party activist Bill Hennessy and businessmen Sam Fox and Peter Herschend.

Herschend’s holdings include Silver Dollar City near Branson, Mo.

The letter comes just days after former U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., headlined a fundraising reception in Kansas City for Hanaway, a former aide.

Hanaway also has the backing of the state’s top Republican donor, financier Rex Sinquefield. He has donated $30,000 to her campaign this month, which is in addition to $750,000 that he contributed to Hanaway in October.

Schweich's campaign has blasted Hanaway for taking so much money from one donor, although she contends that Sinquefield's aid will end up being only a fraction of what she plans to raise.   Excluding Sinquefield's aid,  Schweich so far has raised more money from far more donors than Hanaway.

Both have been outraised by the top Democrat seeking the post, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who just announced a list of self-imposed restrictions on his money-raising in response to a disparaging article in the New York Times.

Schweich's backers have tried the "open letter'' approach earlier, but without success. In March 2012, allies sent out such a letter to persuade him to run for the U.S. Senate -- with the aim of pitting him against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.  Schweich opted against joining the already-crowded Republican field. In the end,  McCaskill defeated former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood.

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