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Columbia Missourian

Incumbent Democrat loses in state auditor race

By Missourian State Capitol Bureau
November 3, 2010 | 12:46 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — For only the second time in recent history, Missourians have ousted an incumbent state auditor. Republican Tom Schweich joined fellow party members in Missouri for a victorious midterm election.

Democrat Susan Montee, who was serving her first term, was defeated. The last state auditor to suffer defeat in office was John Ashcroft in 1974.

Montee did not concede publicly on Tuesday night.

The Jackson County Democratic chairman, Steve Bough, said late in the evening that Montee would not make a public concession but had plans to call Schweich after all results were in to concede. Bough said Montee stayed at her home and watched the election results on TV.

A little after 11 p.m., Schweich emerged to say it was "mathematically impossible" for him to lose.

"I have not yet heard from Ms. Montee, but it does appear impossible for me not to win this race," Schweich told his supporters at a St. Louis election watch.

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

Schweich is a new figure on the Missouri political scene but not in the national arena.

The first issue Schweich said he wants to take on is ensuring federal stimulus money is being appropriately audited to avoid waste and frivolous spending.

"You know, you can fight crime, corruption, waste, fraud and abuse for corporations. You've been doing it at the U.N. You've been doing it around the world. You can do it right here in Missouri," Schweich said in the only auditor debate of the campaign.

He began filling roles in federal agencies in 1999. He worked in the investigation of the Branch Davidian siege at Waco, as chief of staff for three U.N. ambassadors and in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in both the U.S. and Afghanistan.

Jack Danforth, former Missouri attorney general, U.N. ambassador and U.S. senator, approached Schweich about running for political office, initially wanting him to run in the Senate race. When Roy Blunt had clearly wrapped up the GOP nomination, Schweich focused his ambitions on the auditor's race.

"I always knew I wanted to do public service, but I never planned to run for office until I got into this race," Schweich said. "I was asked by some local Republicans in the St. Louis area if I would be willing to run for office because they thought I could continue my public service that way."

Danforth first met Schweich at the Bryan Cave law firm in St. Louis, where Schweich has worked since 1985. Danforth said he was impressed with the way the young lawyer handled significant cases, and when then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno asked Danforth to lead an investigation of the F.B.I.'s into the 1993 Waco siege, he appointed Schweich as his chief of staff. 

"When I was asked by Janet Reno to be the special counsel for the investigation of the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas, I in turn asked Tom to be my chief of staff for that investigation," Danforth said. "He is very smart, very well-organized and able. When he takes something on, he does it right."

Schweich's initial foray into the Senate campaign became an issue for his Democratic challenger.

"I'm the only one up at this table who got up one morning and said I'd like to be the state auditor," Montee said. "In fact, Mr. Schweich, you know, toyed around with playing a different race until they took him in a backroom and put him into this one."

Montee said in the debate that Schweich lacks a key qualification if he wants to be auditor; Montee is a certified public accountant, but Schweich is not.

"We really are a CPA firm," Montee said."It comes down to experience to run the office."

She is the first auditor in Missouri history to be both a CPA and a licensed attorney.

Schweich said he has the skills and qualifications needed to be state auditor, despite the fact that he is not a CPA .

"The idea of someone suggesting that I'm unqualified for the job is almost joke," he said.

Born and raised in Missouri, Schweich headed to the East Coast for college after he graduated from Clayton High School in St. Louis. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in history from Yale University in 1982 and a law degree from Harvard University three years later.

In 2008, Schweich began teaching as a visiting professor of law and ambassador-in-residence at Washington University. Schweich, his wife, Kathy, and children Emilie, 18, and Thomas, Jr., 12, currently live in St. Louis. Schweich has dedicated each of his books, which cover finance, law and business, to his family.

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