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Retired state Auditor Margaret Kelly joins Schweich on campaign swing

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 28, 2010 - After more than a decade away from politics, former Missouri state Auditor Margaret Kelly returned on Monday to deliver a brief but rousing address in support of this year's GOP candidate for the job, St. Louis lawyer Tom Schweich.

Kelly, a Republican who became (thanks to then-Gov. Christopher "Kit" Bond) the first woman to hold statewide office in Missouri -- and the longest serving (1984-1999) -- was among a cadre of well-known Republicans who stumped for Schweich at three fundraising events held Monday around the state.

Kelly led the parade of past and current politicians who regaled about 350 Schweich supporters at the final event: an evening fund-raiser in the ballroom at the Frontenac Hilton. Among the others were retired U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a former governor and senator who got his start as state auditor.

Kelly, 75, said in a brief interview that she came out of retirement when Schweich called her to ask if she would campaign for him. "I think he will be a terrific auditor, and I fully support his candidacy," she said.

But in keeping with her non-political style, Kelly declined to say anything bad about the Democratic incumbent, state Auditor Susan Montee.

Kelly was the Cole County auditor when she was named by Bond to fill the statewide vacancy created when then-Democratic incumbent James F. Antonio resigned. (A few months later, Democrat Harriett Woods was elected lieutenant governor, becoming the first woman elected to statewide office.)

Kelly won full terms in 1986, 1990 and 1994. She lost two quests for other offices -- in 1992 for lieutenant governor and a 1996 bid for governor.

After leaving office in January 1999, Kelly disappeared from the public arena. She said Monday that she's been enjoying herself with family, friends and travel. But she added that she was having fun with her brief re-emergence on Schweich's behalf.

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