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Q&A: Diehl talks Speaker’s race, thoughts on caucus’ future

The Missouri Times: What made you want to seek the speaker’s gavel?

John Diehl: Our caucus is passionate about moving this state in a direction that will grow our economy, ensure better schools for kids and protect the values that make our country great. Based upon my experience and successful handling of difficult legislative matters, I believe I am best suited to lead our caucus to pass our priorities and reach our goals that will move our state in a better direction for the future.

Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town & Country, speaks on the House floor during the 2013 legislative session. (Submitted photo by House Photographer Tim Bommel)
Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town & Country, speaks on the House floor during the 2013 legislative session. (Submitted photo by House Photographer Tim Bommel)

TMT: Can you tell us a little bit about your work with democratic members?

JD: Each member of the House represents 36,000 people. To the extent that the Democrats will work with us on reducing the tax burden on our families and businesses, creating an environment conducive to job creation, protecting the values that make our state great and defending our Constitutional rights, I will work with them.  However, when their goal is to block our priorities, I will be aggressive in helping our members get their legislation passed into law.

TMT: Who are some people who have been helpful to you in your career in public life?

JD: My family.  Throughout my time in the legislature, my family always been extremely supportive and I am truly grateful to them for their support.

TMT: What would be some of the changes you would want to make if you’re elected speaker?

JD: Immediately upon my election as speaker-designee, we will begin the process of reviewing our committee structure.  We need to make use of the significant talent from the members of our caucus by getting more involvement from our members in, both, our policy making and campaign efforts.  Furthermore, I believe the speaker holds a trust with our caucus. Because of that trust, I have pledged to give all of the money I raise as speaker and speaker-designee to the caucus and will not use the office as a stepping-stone to higher office.

Lastly, I believe we must plan our work and work our plan.  We need to do a better job of getting input from our members in building our agenda.  Our agenda should not be the agenda of one person, but rather the shared legislative priorities of our members.

Diehl speaks with another legislator on the House floor (Photo by House Photographer Tim Bommel)
Diehl speaks with another legislator on the House floor (Photo by House Photographer Tim Bommel)

TMT: How important is it to members that you are not seeking higher office in 2016?

JD: This is something I have thought about for a long time, not something to just be used as a campaign talking point.  I believe having a speaker that is not running for something else is important for two reasons: being speaker is a full-time job and it deserves attention as such.  Additionally, I believe that the money raised by the speaker is a result of the trust the caucus has placed in him or her and therefore the funds raised should given to help build our caucus, not furthering individual aspirations.

TMT: Who are some of the members who are helping lead your effort supporting your candidacy?

JD: I have received support from all corners of the state, from each class, and from members of all backgrounds.  I have a great team of support from across the state and I don’t believe it would be fair leave anyone out.

TMT: Some are making an issue of your opponent being a member of a very large sophomore class in the house. Have you found that to be a problem for you?

JD: Not at all.  I think political observers are making a mistake to assume support based on where someone is from or what class they’re in.  Our caucus is looking for a leader that will help build our caucus and pass the legislation our members are passionate about.  Because of that, I believe I have overwhelming support from each class and each region of the state.

TMT: Where do you think the vote is now? Do you think you have enough support if the vote was today?

JD: I am honored and humbled by the overwhelming support and the number of commitments I have received.  The support I have received has been unwavering from day one and I am appreciative of the active and forceful way my supporters have helped me throughout this race. Due to the trust they have placed in me and my desire to build our caucus for the future, I’m not taking anything for granted. As always, I am continuing to work tirelessly until the job is completed.

TMT: What are some of the things you’ve done to campaign inside of your caucus?

JD: I’ve listened. For the past five years, I have been traveling the state meeting with our members, learning about their districts and what’s important to them and listening to their ideas about how to improve our caucus. We have many talented caucus members with unique skills. We need to better utilize the skills and talents of all of our members. The great ideas and conversations that I have had with members over the past five years will shape my plan as speaker and I am extremely grateful for their input. By utilizing all of the talents and skills of our members, our future will be very bright.

TMT: What have you learned about the current state of the caucus from your conversations during the summer?

During this past session (Photo by House Photographer Tim Bommel)
During this past session (Photo by House Photographer Tim Bommel)

JD: My campaign is about looking forward and about how I will conduct myself as speaker. I’m excited about our future and utilizing the talents of our members. As speaker, I will continually strive and work to not just talk about the priorities of our members, but to pass them into law.

TMT: If you’re speaker, will the House vote on “right to work” legislation?

JD: Yes.  While it will be a caucus decision, I personally support a right to work law for Missouri and believe we will work to pass this important reform while I am speaker.  In addition to right to work, I will continue to push (as I have as Floor Leader) to get Paycheck Protection passed into law and further reform our outdated prevailing wage laws.

TMT: Would you remove members of committees if they did not support a bill you were committed to seeing pass?

JD: No.

TMT: [Your opponent] said he called you the day he announced but you didn’t return his call, have you spoken to him since his announcement?

JD: We’ve spoken on numerous occasions.

TMT: What do you think this does to next year’s session, this leadership race?

JD: I don’t think it will impact next session at all.  I will respect the decision of the caucus and am committed to seeing us have a productive year next year.

TMT: If you’re the speaker, you’re the head fundraiser. Do you think it’s important for people to see that you can fundraise?

JD: I have committed to spending my time as speaker to helping build our caucus, whether through policy efforts or on our members’ re-election campaigns.  All of my efforts will be focused on passing good policies and getting our members re-elected.  As such, I have committed to our caucus to return every dollar I raise as speaker and speaker-designee to the caucus.

Near the end of session, Diehl and Jones stand outside of the House chamber and talk about a bill. (photo taken by Scott Faughn)
Near the end of session, Diehl and Jones stand outside of the House chamber and talk about a bill. (photo taken by Scott Faughn)

TMT: How many members of your caucus have you spoken with?

JD: All of them.

TMT: If you are unsuccessful with the caucus, would you look to work with the Democrat caucus in a power-sharing arrangement?

JD: Absolutely not.

TMT: Is there a representative that’s supported you that’s surprised you?

JD: No. I have worked very hard to build relationships with our members since coming into the House and I value my friendship with each and every caucus member.  Our members are interested in a leader that will not play favorites, will utilize the talents of all of our members and work aggressively to pass our shared legislative goals. I believe I have proven my commitment to our caucus time and again and am appreciative for all of the support I have received.

TMT: If you’re successful in becoming the speaker, what role would you see Caleb Jones having in the caucus?

JD: Caleb is a talented member and I appreciate his friendship.  It is my hope that he will play an active role in our political operation and policy making.

TMT: It’s obviously a little awkward to have a relative of the speaker running against you. Has the race caused a problem in your relationship with the speaker?

JD: It’s no secret that the speaker is supporting his cousin. I consider the speaker a friend and am confident we will continue to work well together in the future.

TMT: Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you want to make sure that people know?

JD: I am thankful for the opportunity to serve our caucus as majority leader.  If elected speaker, I will continue to be fair, open and accessible and will work tirelessly to pass our members’ priorities. Based on my experience in life and politics, I believe I will bring a mature approach to handling the challenges we face as a caucus moving forward.