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St. Louis County Republicans choose Plocher as nominee to replace Diehl

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Republican leaders in St. Louis County’s 89th state House District needed only one ballot to choose lawyer Dean Plocher overwhelmingly as their nominee to replace former House Speaker John Diehl. 

Diehl, R-Town and Country, resigned in disgrace last May because of his sexually explicit text messages with a college-age intern.

Plocher handily defeated two other contenders — former state Rep. Cole McNary and lawyer Tom Nations — in balloting Tuesday night at the Town and Country City Hall.

Security was tight, with all attendees subject to metal detectors and police searches of belongings.

An expected candidate, David Wasinger, attended the meeting but said before it began that he’d decided to drop out of the contest. Wasinger said he was considering a statewide bid instead.

Wasinger is the husband of St. Louis County Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country.

Plocher won 11 of the 14 votes from the GOP committeemen and committeewomen in the district’s seven townships.

Diehl’s disgrace overshadowed proceedings

Although the vote was overwhelming, some of the candidates’ discourse revealed an edge.

McNary, son of former County Executive Gene McNary, took note that Plocher had been Diehl’s campaign treasurer for a couple years. McNary argued that the public needed someone like himself who had run for office before and had “kept my nose clean” with no evidence of scandal.

McNary said the 89th District’s voters — who already lean Republican — expect and need a candidate with spotless credentials after “the last two representatives (both Republican) unfortunately had to step down.”

Diehl’s predecessor, Scott Muschany, stepped down in 2008 over a personal scandal.

McNary denied to party leaders that he would consider running as an independent if he failed to get the GOP nod.

Plocher, who emphasized his solid family life, derided unnamed persons for “sending malicious letters that insinuate acts and promote false claims’’ and harm the GOP brand.

Plocher said in an interview afterward that his role as Diehl’s campaign treasurer was that of “a figurehead’’ and that he had not known the former speaker well.

Plocher told the audience that he could fulfill the district’s need for a legislator “with strong character, with leadership qualities, and someone who values moral conservative Republican beliefs.”

Nominee blasts federal overreach

Plocher cited his commitment to advancing the conservative agenda. “I will fight the encroachment of the federal government in our daily lives. I will work to stop Medicaid expansion, Obamacare, school curriculum, EPA and energy encroachments.”

“I believe in following common-sense conservative principles. … I want smaller, accountable government and fiscal responsibility, and I am strongly pro-life,’’ he said. “Our government, more particularly our federal government, has gotten far too big. Protecting our freedom from improper federal government overreach and protection and promotion of our constitutional rights must be central to what our state legislature does when it enacts laws…”

Plocher, McNary and Nations all said they would support a right-to-work law that would curb union powers. Such a law, vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, would bar unions and employers from requiring all workers in a bargaining unit from paying union dues or fees.

The Missouri General Assembly will consider in September whether to try to override Nixon’s veto.

However, the 89th District seat will still be empty. It will be filled on Nov. 3, when Plocher will compete in the special election against Democrat Alan Gerber.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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