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Government, Politics & Issues

Schweich claims victory over incumbent auditor Montee

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 3, 2010 - Tom Schweich, a political novice who never sought public office before, capitalized on an anti-incumbency mood to capture the Missouri state auditor's office Tuesday from Democrat Susan Montee.

Schweich's well-financed campaign rolled up large margins in Missouri's non-metropolitan areas and the numbers were large enough to hold off Montee's strong showings in St. Louis and Kansas City.

The win positions Schweich, who initially tried to run for the U.S. Senate, for eventual advancement in Missouri's political ranks.

Others have used the auditor's office as a launching pad for bigger government roles, although Schweich emphasized during the campaign that he would remain in office for its full four-year term.

At about 11:15 p.m., with about 91 percent of the state's precincts reporting, Schweich claimed victory in a speech to about 75 supporters at J. Buck's Restaurant in Clayton. After thanking them, Schweich said it was not mathematically possible for Montee to win.

"I have not yet heard from Ms. Montee, but it does appear impossible for me not to win this race,'' Schweich said.

He added that he enjoyed meeting the people of Missouri during the campaign, but he is now looking forward to getting to the job and being their watchdog.

"There's a lot of history made across Missouri today,'' Schweich said. "I got to play my little part in it."

There was no statement from the Montee camp, headquartered in Kansas City. Schweich said that Montee called him to concede about midnight.

Schweich had amassed a 145,000-vote lead out of more than 1.7 million votes cast. In percentages, Schweich led Montee 52 percent to 44 percent. Charles Baum, a Libertarian party candidate, had less than 4 percent of the vote.

Lloyd Smith, the head of the Missouri Republican Party, said Schweich hailed from different sector of the GOP, but that might be a plus during this election year.

"He didn't come up through the ranks but took a different course," Smith said. Schweich held appointive posts in the United Nations with former U.S. Sen. John Danforth and worked in Afghanistan for the U.S. State Department. He was Danforth's chief of staff when the former senator investigated the federal government's handling of the confrontation with the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas.

"I think he's uniquely equipped," Smith said. "What sets him apart are is investigative skills. The taxpayers need protections that someone like him can provide."

Montee, 51, campaigned on experience and expertise, citing her credentials as a certified public accountant, a qualification Schweich did not hold. Schweich tried to tie Montee to President Barack Obama, a Democrat who gained Montee's political support early in Obama's campaign.

During her four years in office, Montee had delivered attention-getting audits throughout the state, pointing out waste-in-government in St. Louis, the high cost of tax credits at the Missouri Housing Development Commission and the big money being paid to executives of the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.

"I feel like that should count for something," Montee told an interviewer during the campaign. And Montee was favorably endorsed on many of the editorial pages of the state's newspapers.

But Schweich had much more money for his campaign.

Political campaign contributions to Schweich's campaign in the final days leading up to the election poured more than $155,000 into his coffers, which had already collected more than $2 million. The Montee for Auditor campaign had received about $1.1 million.

Before deciding to run for auditor, Schweich, 50, held himself out as a possible Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kit Bond. In March 2009, Schweich wrote that U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, who later became the nominee, might not be the GOP's best candidate.

But when support coalesced behind Blunt, Schweich switched his focus to the auditor's office, the only other statewide position being considered during this general election. What seemed like a political calculation paid off when Schweich defeated state Rep. Allen Icet of Wildwood in west St. Louis County, during the Republican primary for auditor in August.

Asked during the campaign about using the auditor's office to run for the Senate or another office, Schweich said, "I will not run for another office in 2012.

"No one more than my family wants for me to have the same job for four years," Schweich said. "It's not a professional issue. It's a personal, family issue for me."

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