Missouri House Speaker John Diehl Resigns

By John Celock

The speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives is resigning from the state Legislature a day after it was revealed that he exchanged sexual texts with a college intern.

House Speaker John Diehl (R-Town and Country) announced Thursday that he will be stepping down as both speaker and from the state House by the end of the week, less than 24 hours after he apologized for the texts and said he did not have sex with the intern. Diehl becomes the second state legislative this week to resign in a scandal and third overall this year. The texts were first reported Wednesday by the Kansas City Star.

“I have acknowledged making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages,” Diehl said in a resignation statement released by his office. “It was wrong and I am truly sorry. Too often we hear leaders say they’re sorry but are unwilling to accept the consequences. I understand that, as a leader, I am responsible for my actions and I am willing to face the consequences.”

Diehl said that he was resigning for the good of his legislative caucus, the Missouri Republican Party and the state and that he did not “want to further jeopardize what we have accomplished this year and what we can accomplish in the future.”

House Republicans have a caucus meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon, that ended without the election of a new speaker. Diehl’s resignation comes as Missouri lawmakers are scheduled to end their annual legislative session this week.

In a statement Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) called Diehl’s resignation an “appropriate and necessary step.”

Diehl is the second state legislative leader to resign in a scandal this week and third this year. On Monday, New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) resigned after losing conference support following his arrest on federal corruption charges. Skelos’ ouster came months after former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) resigned in January following losing his conference’s support after being arrested on federal corruption charges.

Unlike Diehl, both Skelos and Silver have continued as state legislators.

In addition to Skelos and Silver, Nevada Assembly Speaker-elect Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) was forced out in November of last year following revelations of racist and homophobic writings. Hansen has remained in the state Legislature. Earlier this month, Democrat Donna Mercado Kim (D-Honolulu) was forced out of the state Senate presidency in a legislative coup, but remains in the Senate.

Diehl’s resignation comes months after he assumed the speakership in what was supposed be the final two years of his eight years in the state House. Diehl would have been forced from the House by term limits in 2016. Prior to becoming speaker, Diehl had served as House majority leader and chairman of the House Rules Committee.

Prior to being elected to the Legislature, Diehl spent three years as the chairman of the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners, an appointment he received from former Gov. Matt Blunt (R). He also served as an alderman in Town and Country, along with chairing the police commission, conservation commission and architectural review board in Town and Country.