longtime journalist reacts to schweichs death

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JEFFERSON CITY - A journalist who has covered politics at the Missouri Capitol for 40 years said he had seen almost everything during his time in Jefferson City.

Missouri Audior Tom Schweich's apparent suicide Thursday was a first for Missouri Digital News Director Phil Brooks. He said the news impacted many people in the building.

"This is a relatively small community for a state capitol," Brooks said. "It's a fairly close political environment, and when something like this happens, it affects people on both sides of the aisle."

Brooks said the last time a statewide elected official committed suicide was in 1844. He compared this event to the death of Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash in 2000 while he campaigned for U.S. Senate.

Brooks said Schweich was near the top of the field for the Republican nomination for governor before he died.

"He was considered to be trailing Katherine Hanaway, but not insurmountably," Brooks said. "So it was a big surprise." 

Brooks described Schweich as a bright person who was a cooperative source of information.

"He was a teacher for a lot of us. He was an incredibly bright, smart, thoughtful public policy analyst who was a fun guy to talk to," Brooks said.

Brooks also said Gov. Nixon will have to make a decision soon about his nomination to replace Schweich for the remainder of his term, which expires in 2018. He does not have to select someone from Schweich's party. 

"So Democrat Jay Nixon will be in a position to appoint somebody who will replace almost an entire term of an elected state auditor," Brooks said. "That's been a position that's ben a launching pad for future politicians in this state before."

Schweich won the election for state auditor in 2014 with more than 70 percent of the vote. The Missouri Democratic Party did not nominate a candidate to run against him in that election.

Nixon will have to make his decision very soon.

According to Missouri Law:

"When a vacancy occurs in the office of state auditor, the governor shall immediately appoint an acting auditor to fill such vacancy for the residue of the term in which the vacancy occurred[, and] until [his] a successor is elected [or appointed, commissioned]"

This means Nixon's choice will hold office until November elections in 2018.