By John Celock
Capping off a roller coaster 36 hour period, Missouri House Republicans have tapped a 38-year-old lawmaker from Poplar Bluff as the next state House speaker.
Republican lawmakers elected House Majority Floor Leader Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) during a caucus meeting Thursday, to replace Speaker John Diehl (R-Town and Country) who resigned earlier in the day following the revelation that he exchanged sexual texts with a college intern. Richardson, a third term lawmaker, will likely see his selection confirmed Friday by the full House, on the final day of the legislative session.
Richardson’s election comes a day after the Kansas City Star first reported that Diehl had exchanged the texts, a report that threw Missouri politics into chaos as lawmakers prepare to leave Jefferson City on Friday. Diehl clung to power until Thursday afternoon, when he announced his resignation from the speakership and the House. The House gaveled in briefly twice on Thursday but conducted no legislative business on a day that earlier this week was expected to be packed with floor debate and votes.
At a press conference following his election, Richardson said that the Missouri Legislature has not been seen in a “good light” and wanted to change the perception. He also indicated a desire to have the House pass out legislation relating to workers compensation and use of force on Friday.
On Twitter, Rep. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) praised Richardson “as a man of great integrity.”
— Caleb Rowden (@calebrowden44) May 15, 2015
Richardson, who became majority floor leader earlier this year, was first elected to the House in 2010 and will reach term limits in the 2018 election. He is the son of a former House minority leader and a former vice chairman of the House General Laws Committee and the current chairman of the House Ethics Committee. He is an attorney in Poplar Bluff and he and his wife, Amber, have two children.
Richardson is the second state legislative leader to be elected this week following a scandal. On Monday, New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Northport) was elected to replace former Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who resigned following his arrest on federal corruption charges. Skelos has remained a senator. Flanagan also carries the title of temporary president of the Senate.
Earlier this month, Hawaii Senate President Ronald Kouchi (D-Kauai) ousted former Senate President Donna Kim Mercado (D-Honolulu) in a legislative coup. Kim Mercado has remained in the Senate.
In February, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) was elected to replace former Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) following Silver’s arrest on federal corruption charges. Silver remains in the Legislature.