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Wash U law professor has been approached to run for U.S. Senate

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 11, 2009 - Washington University visiting law school professor and "ambassador-in-residence'' Thomas Schweich confirmed this morning that he has gotten some encouragement to consider running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri -- a path that would make him a rival of U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford.

Schweich, a graduate of Clayton High School who served the Bush administration as the ambassador for counternarcotics and justice reform in Afghanistan, has been asked by some of the region's most prominent Republicans to consider the idea because some in the GOP question whether Blunt will be a strong candidate against the only announced Democrat, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

Among the Republicans encouraging Schweich: retired U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo.; former Ambassador to Hungary Bert Walker, a Bush cousin and chairman emeritus of Stifel Nicolaus and Webster University; and former Ambassador to Belgium Sam Fox, the founder of Clayton-based Harbour Group.

Danforth, Fox and Walker used the same phrases to describe Schweich: "A fresh face."

"He's a fresh face. A tremendously impressive individual,'' said Walker. "He's somebody that the Republican Party should take a hard look at."

Said Fox: "I think Blunt has distinguished himself in Washington, but I do think we need new blood, a fresh face."

Danforth said,  "My view is that a fresh face is more likely to hold on to that seat."

"I think what he (Schweich) would do, if he does this, he would be able to make the basic argument for an alternative to the current course of action'' in Washington, Danforth said.

Danforth was referring to the massive spending and corporate involvement by President Barack Obama's administration. Danforth said he got particularly concerned a few months ago when Obama ordered the chief of General Motors to step down and be replaced.

Fox, Danforth and Walker emphasized that they had a high regard for Blunt, and would support him if he is the GOP nominee. But all three added they were concerned about his chances.

News of their activities comes as the man currently holding the Senate seat -- Republican Christopher "Kit" Bond -- has been traveling the state stumping for Blunt.

A Blunt spokesman said the congressman would welcome Schweich's support, and cited the various Republicans -- including 71 of the 89 GOP legislators in the state House -- who have endorsed Blunt in recent weeks. (The entire statement is at the end of this post.)

Schweich attracted attention a couple months ago with an op-ed in the Post-Dispatch, where he argued that Blunt was not a strong enough candidate, and could doom Republican hopes. Schweich also said in that article that it was inappropriate for Republican leaders to discourage potential challengers. (He did not mention former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who continues to mull over the idea, but has yet to announce a decision.)

Reached this morning, Schweich said, "I've been encouraged to run by some people."

He then issued the following statement:

"I think it is very important that Republicans keep that Senate seat.Having two Democrats represent us in the U.S. Senate and a Democrat as our governor is not healthy for Missouri. With the exception of Lt. Gov. Kinder, it would effectively be one party rule at the state level-- and I think even a lot of responsible Democrats don't want such a lack of balance in Missouri's political leadership.

"The race has significant national implications as well. Having a supermajority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate is not good for the country either. There would be no check on the current federal policies of unprecedented, massive deficits, government intrusion into all aspects of our lives, the rewarding of irresponsibility, and the selling of our future to foreign countries like China.

"To the extent that I can help bring unity to the Republican effort to get that message to the voters, I would be interested in running. If my candidacy would lower the chances of our retaining that seat, then I would not run."

Schweich, 48, has a lengthy governmental resume.

According to Washington University's Web site:

"Thomas Schweich served the Bush administration as the ambassador for counternarcotics and justice reform in Afghanistan, as the government's deputy assistant secretary of state and acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and chief of staff to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. He is currently a special representative for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

"From 1999 to 2000, Schweich served as chief of staff to the Danforth Special Counsel investigation into the deaths of 84 members of the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas. Schweich is also the author of three books and several articles on litigation avoidance, personal finance, numismatics, Afghanistan, and career development.

"...Schweich, who graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School, also serves as a visiting professor. In addition to his work at the University, Schweich is of counsel at Bryan Cave LLP.

Snippets of Schweich's commentary piece in the Post-Dispatch (no longer available on the newspaper's Web site) included:

"..Blunt's vulnerabilities have been discussed widely on talk radio and the Internet. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the seat, will paint him as a leader of the Congress that delivered us a multi-trillion dollar deficit. She will say he turned a blind eye to the greeding frenzy on Wall Street.

Worse yet, I already can see the advertisements showing grainy pictures of his family members, trumpeting that they are lobbyists for some powerful industries that have hurt ordinary Missourians. And, like it or not, Blunt's son - another well-meaning guy - left the governor's office under a cloud that has not yet lifted. Can you imagine the field day that Carnahan will have? For Republicans, it is in all likelihood a recipe for disaster. Most everyone knows it, yet only a few will say it out loud. ..."

UPDATE--

Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer issued the following statement:

"Roy Blunt would welcome Mr. Schweich's support in our campaign. As Senator Bond said last week, Roy has the desire and the ability to unite our party which is why he has wide and broad support from grassroots volunteers to Missouri's elected officials. Support for Roy Blunt includes Senator Bond, every member of Missouri's Republican delegation in the U.S. House and 71 of the 89 Republican members of the Missouri House.

"Roy Blunt appears to be the only one willing to draw contrast with Robin Carnahan or compare his record on the issues with hers. If we are going to prevent the national Democrats from total one-party control in Washington, we need a candidate like Roy Blunt who is going to stand up for Missouri common sense and fight and win to put Missouri's future first."

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.

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