GOP candidate knocks incumbent out of state auditor's office
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GOP candidate knocks incumbent out of state auditor's office

Date: November 2, 2010
By: Alysha Love
State Capitol Bureau

CLAYTON -- Voters around the nation Tuesday were seeing red -- literally. In an election year when voters were unwilling to keep Democrats and incumbents in office, newcomer and Republican Tom Schweich knocked incumbent Democrat Susan Montee out of the state auditor's office.

Schweich declared the victory a little after 11 p.m. At the time, Schweich led 52.4 percent to 43.9 percent, or 895,306 to 750,114 votes, with 91 percent of precincts reporting.

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

Montee made no public appearance at the Democratic watch party to concede. She called to concede to Schweich a few minutes before midnight.

Schweich maintained a lead well into the night, roughly 58 percent against Montee's 38 percent until St. Louis and Kansas City's votes were reported. Libertarian Charles Baum claimed the remaining votes.

Schweich and Montee were in a statistical dead heat less than two weeks before the election, according a poll released by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Oct. 25. His election is the first upset of an incumbent Missouri auditor since 1974.

Young boys in polo shirts and khakis, older men in sports coats and slacks and women clutching purses and glasses of red wine mingled under the muted lights of the bar in J. Bucks, all family, friends and supporters of Schweich. Attendees of the watch party were abuzz, discussing Schweich's chances for a win, the role they played in his campaign and the goings-on in their St. Louis lives.

Schweich's victory came at the end of an uneventful auditor election season, with just one debate and little publicity. In contrast to the mudslinging of the Senate race, Schweich and Montee ran low-key campaigns.

The race for state auditor was Schweich's first bid for elected public office, although he is no stranger to appointed positions in the government. He served as the chief of staff for the investigation of the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas, chief of staff to two U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. and as a coordinator with the rank of ambassador for the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in Afghanistan. For the past 25 years, the Harvard Law School graduate also worked as an attorney at Bryan Cave law firm in St. Louis.

Schweich said he delved into state politics with encouragement from conservatives in St. Louis.

"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."

Initially, Schweich looked into running for the state's open U.S. Senate seat, which would have pitted him against Republican Roy Blunt in the primary. With support from GOP members like Jack Danforth, John Bolton and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, Schweich made the decision to run instead for state auditor.

"He is very smart, very well-organized and able. When he takes something on, he does it right," Danforth said.

 Throughout his campaign, Schweich leaned on his big-name endorsements and previous experience auditing and investigating for the federal government. The tactic served him well, leading to

Schweich and Montee met only once during the campaign season for the Missouri Press Association debate in Lake Ozark. The pair remained cordial and calm, although they made a few jabs at each other's political ties and qualifications.

For her part, Montee claimed that it is necessary for the auditor to be a certified public accountant; Schweich countered with examples of successful auditors who were not CPAs. Schweich criticized Montee's program that outsources some financial audits to local accounting firms; Montee responded with the successes and efficiency of her program.

In the most notable outburst of the campaign, Montee accused Schweich of being the political pawn of Republican powers.

"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 has been state auditor since first elected in 2006, after Democrat and now-Sen. Claire McCaskill vacated the position. Montee is the first state auditor in Missouri's history to be both a CPA and a licensed attorney.

The incumbent state auditor started her political career in 1999 when she held a seat on the St. Joseph City Council. Montee served concurrently as Buchanan County auditor for two years. She gave up her seat on the city council in 2003, but continued to serve as county auditor.

In 2006, Montee began campaigning to become Missouri state auditor and was sworn in as the state's 35th auditor on January 4, 2007.

Montee said that this election cycle has been an anti-incumbent and anti-Democratic, but that she wanted to define her office differently.

Earlier in the election season Montee called 2010 "the year all about politics." Montee said that the economy and lack of jobs has painted a very bleak picture for a Democrat.

Montee said, though, that she would win this year because of her record. When she began in 2007, 91 audits were conducted. Each year she was in office, she increased that number. Last year, her office completed 151 audits.