Tom Schweich suicide
Just 13 minutes before he apparently shot himself, Schweich told The AP about his plans to go public that afternoon with allegations that the head of the Missouri Republican Party had made anti-Semitic comments about him

A Missouri Republican candidate has died after apparently shooting himself after he went public with allegations that rivals planned to mount an anti-Semitic "whisper campaign" about his Jewish heritage.

Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor in 2016, died on 26 February in an apparent suicide just 13 minutes after he called the Associated Press to accuse John Hancock, the head of the Missouri Republican Party, of making derogatory comments about him.

The lawyer and former acting assistant secretary in the US State Department, and a churchgoing Episcopalian, accused Republican rivals of exploiting his heritage, as his grandfather was Jewish.

While Hancock admitted he believed Schweich, 54, was Jewish because of his last name, he denied making anti-Semitic remarks.

"I don't have a specific recollection of having said that, but it's plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish because I thought he was, but I wouldn't have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion," Hancock told the AP.

Local press reported Schweich had disclosed the existence of the anti-Semitic "whisper campaign" earlier in February. Missouri is a deeply conservative state where racism and anti-Semitism still loom larges.

Schweich, who had been re-elected in November 2014 after serving for four years and announced a month ago he would seek his party's nomination for governor, was found with a gunshot wound.

Clayton police chief Kevin Murphy told a press conference a post-mortem is expected to be conducted on 27 February.