Caleb Jones to challenge Diehl in Speaker’s race

– State Rep. Caleb Jones told colleagues he would challenge Majority Floor Leader John Diehl in the Republican race for House Speaker.

Jones’s announcement came in an email to Republican cuacus members Monday morning.

“This is not a decision I take lightly,” Jones wrote. “The election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is a competition, not a coronation. We must discuss the issues facing our party, determine what we can do to make Missouri a better place, and elect a leader who will take us there.”

Jones said he wants to help caucus members build a “bottom up” agenda, which he feels will force both government accountability as well as accountability with how the caucus’s legislative platform is built.

“We need to have an open, honest discussion on the issues facing our party and elect a Speaker who will work for the caucus,” Jones said.

In an email statement, Diehl seemed ready for the challenge: “No one should expect a free pass. I will work tirelessly, as I have done for the past 5 years, to maintain and hopefully grow our historic majorities. I have committed to my caucus that if elected I will focus 100 percent of my time on being speaker and not using the office as a stepping stone to seek higher office.”

Jones’s announcement came exactly two months after Diehl announced his intent to seek the position. At the time, Diehl rolled out quotes from more than 50 lawmakers, including Jones, to show united support from the caucus.

“Now is not the time for a discussion on internal politics. John is a good friend, and I think its clear he is next in line for speaker,” Jones said at the time. “I think this will be a good discussion when the turmoil of session is over.”

Jones comes from a family of legislators. His cousin, Tim Jones, is the current Speaker of the House, and his father, Kenny Jones, held the seat he currently holds.

If Diehl were to win, he would be termed out at the end of the two year term. Diehl has indicated his disinterest in statewide office, a pillar of his campaign for Speaker.

“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,” he told The Missouri Times at the time. “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.”

On the other hand, Jones has shown an interest in statewide office. Jones could serve two more terms in the House, and likewise, could serve two terms as Speaker — a change in pace from the period of two-year Speakers in recent history.

After the caucus’s internal election in September, whoever wins would be Speaker-elect until Tim Jones leaves the House at the end of 2014.