JEFFERSON CITY - Three Republican senators and two Republican House members gathered Thursday morning in the Capitol to publicly call on Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock to resign.
The calls for Hancock's resignation come just two weeks after Auditor Tom Schweich committed suicide at his home in Clayton.
Sen. David Pearce opened the press conference and said Hancock must resign in order for the party to look forward.
"If we don't make some changes, if we don't try to make a chance in direction, this will haunt us in the August 2016 elections and the November 2016 elections," Pearce said. "But more importantly than an outcome of an election is what is the nature of politics in Missouri?"
Sen. Mike Parson, an early supporter of Schweich's gubernatorial campaign, decried the nature of dirty politics on the Senate floor 10 days ago and he repeated his calls for civility.
"Some of the things that are being said two years out that 'we're doing anything to win elections at any cost' has got to stop," Parson said.
Sen. Gary Romine also lended his voice to the growing criticism of Hancock.
"We've been given plenty of time for the party to respond and reach out to the Schweich family and that has not been done," Romine said. "And so I think we've got to take our steps that we're taking today. I sure wish somebody in the leadership of the party would've stepped out and given their condolensces to the Schweich family and make sure that the party was on a positive track on how we're going to heal ourselves."
As the press conference was happening in Jefferson City, Hancock appeared live on KMOX Radio in St. Louis to defend himself against the accusations thrown his way.
He said the time has come for the party to move on.
"Now I hope to put this tragic time behind us," Hancock said. "It is clear that there was no whisper campaign and it's time to move on. I intend to continue working to unify our party during this critical time in our nation's history."
Hancock has repeatedly admitted that he may have mentioned in passing that Schweich was Jewish, but he never did it in a vicious or anti-Semitic manner.
He repeated that statement on KMOX again Thursday.
"What I have said from November to this day is that I do not have a specific recollection of telling someone Tom Schweich was Jewish, but it is possible that I did," Hancock said.
Schweich's grandfather was Jewish, but Schweich himself was Episcopalian.
Before being elected party chairman, Hancock worked for Schweich's gubernatorial opponent Catherine Hanaway as a consultant.
This prompted Parson to call for Hanaway to answer questions.
"I think Catherine Hanaway's going to have to answer some tough questions and they're going to have to be directed towards her," Parson said.
Even the House Democratic leadership is calling for Hancock to resign.
"It certainly seems like the allegations are very upsetting," House Democratic Leader Jacob Hummel of St. Louis said.
House Assistant Democratic Floor Leader Gail McCann-Beatty echoed Hummel.
"While we don't necessarily know what the intentions are, what we do know, that [Hancock] admitted to, is that he may have mentioned that the Auditor was Jewish," she said.
Hancock was elected chairman in late February after then-chairman Ed Martin stepped down.
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