By Collin Reischman
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo — House Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, will run for Speaker in the 98th General Assembly. Diehl will announce his campaign Tuesday afternoon to the Republican caucus with several influential members of his caucus declaring their support of his candidacy.
After learning of Diehl’s impending announcement current House Speaker Tim Jones commented, “John has dedicated himself to the House for the past 5 years. He has been a friend a true leader inside of our caucus. He has spent time working for our state at the expense of his law practice and his family to make the state a better place to live and work. He has shown his strengths both inside the capitol with his work as Majority Leader, Rules Chairman, and the Redistricting Committee, and outside with his willingness to raise funds to help the caucus.”
Diehl said his passion began in high school, when his government teacher required students to attend the township meetings in their community, Town and Country.
“I went to the township meeting there and was warmly embraced,” Diehl said. “It was 1983 which was the year before a presidential and gubernatorial year so everything was getting pretty ramped up there and I found it interesting. They invited me to keep coming back and I kept doing so. Also, that same government teacher made us watch a news program every Sunday morning it was either taped or videotaped and I’d watch shows like Meet the Press… At the time that got me really interested in politics.”
After that, Diehl was hooked. By the time college and the 1984 election rolled around, Diehl was an organizer in the Youth for Reagan campaign and volunteered for John Ashcroft’s reelection. He was a founding member of the College Republican club at Washington University, which grew to over 400 members — one of the largest in the country at the time. Working for Reagan, Diehl helped to form College Republican clubs throughout the state, almost 20 in total.
“It sparked an interest and passion to get more involved with public policy and that fascinates me, and actually the mechanics of it and the campaigns and the messaging and the charisma that goes along with it inspires me,” Diehl said. “You know, I hit college at the time that you had the Reagan revolution going on. Unlike what we’ve had the past four years, back when I was in college students who were politically active were by and large Republicans.”
Diehl remained active during his time in college, organizing a “Fritzbusters” protest on Walter Mondale’s route to the presidential debates held at Washington University. Diehl eventually graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in political science before attending law school at Saint Louis University.
During 1992, Diehl was finished with college and worked heavily on several statewide races, including Roy Blunt’s campaign for governor. After an ugly primary between Bill Webster and Blunt, Diehl stepped away from politics for a while, saying he was “disillusioned” about the state of the party. However, he said he learned a lot from that particular election cycle.
“I think you always have to analyze things,” Diehl said. “I think the best candidates are the ones who can always analyze their own strengths and weaknesses and be honest about what your own weaknesses and limitations are. The minute you get caught up in ‘this is the next step in my career I have to have this,’ is when you start making bad decisions in your career.”
It was a decade later before Diehl reentered politics. He was elected to the Board of Alderman for Town and Country, where he was elected president of the board during his first term. While he had an opportunity to run for mayor, he declined. For several election cycles, Diehl eyed the possibility of a run for a House seat, with little success.
But during 2008, when the Republican running in Diehl’s district was no longer able to maintain his candidacy, Diehl took over and won. Since his election, Diehl rose quickly to leadership, and in the 97th general assembly he was the majority floor leader.
To contact Collin Resichman, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter at @Collin_MOTimes.