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Missouri GOP elects Hancock as new chairman; activists favor Walker for president

John Hancock at 2015 Lincoln Days
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

(Updated 9:30 p.m. Saturday)

Kansas City - St. Louis political consultant and radio host John Hancock promised to put the Missouri Republican Party on a stronger financial and organizational footing for 2016 after he handily won election Saturday as the new party chairman.

Hancock’s election was arguably the most important task for Missouri Republicans gathered in Kansas City this weekend for their annual Reagan-Lincoln Days festivities.

Still, more headlines may focus on Saturday morning’s straw poll.  Members of the state GOP’s 68-member executive board, which chose Hancock, also voted to show their preference for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for president and former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway for governor.

Plans to conduct a straw poll of all of the Reagan-Lincoln Days attendees were scuttled Saturday when organizers said that the ballot box had disappeared late Friday and appeared stuffed when it was finally discovered.

Hancock told several hundred party activists packing the meeting hall that Republicans must take over the White House and Missouri’s governor’s mansion.

“We cannot have another four years of this dangerous slide into socialism,’’ Hancock said.

In an interview, Hancock said he sees strong opportunities for Republican statewide candidates in 2016 — especially because all four of the statewide offices now held by Democrats will be up for grabs because none of the four office holders is seeking re-election to their current posts.

Even so, his first task, Hancock said later, will be to tackle the state party’s debt of close to $80,000. Outgoing chairman Ed Martin, who now heads the conservative Eagle Forum, blamed the tough climate for state parties everywhere.

Hancock won on the first ballot, capturing 50 votes.  The rest were split among rivals Nick Myers and Eddy Justice, both Republican county chairmen from rural Missouri.

Hancock, a former state legislator from St. Louis County, was the state party’s executive director from 1997-2003. He made two unsuccessful bids for Missouri secretary of state in 1992 and 1996.

He promised Republicans that the consulting firm for which he works, the Strategy Group Co., won’t work for any Missouri candidates.

That means Hancock will do no more work for Hanaway, who is competing for governor against at least two other Republicans: state Auditor Tom Schweich and former state Rep. Randy Asbury of Fayette, Mo.

On Hanaway’s behalf, Hancock said his firm had conducted opposition research of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat running for governor in 2016. The results of that research, said Hancock, “will be evident next year.”

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.