John Kiehne seeking state senate seat

John Kiehne poses for a portrait at the Pacific Opera House Thursday, Dec. 10. Kiehne is running for the state senate seat currently held by Sen. Dave Schatz, who is term-limited and cannot seek reelection. 

John Kiehne is running to represent District 26 in the Missouri Senate. 

The Democratic candidate who lives in Labadie hopes to succeed Sen. Dave Schatz, who is leaving his post after reaching his term limit. If elected, Kiehne would represent all of Franklin County as well as Eureka, Wildwood and Chesterfield in St. Louis County. Kiehne, 54, was born in St. Charles and graduated from Francis Howell High School. In 1991, he moved to Boston to pursue a career in music but later returned to Missouri and landed in Labadie, where he works as a musician and music teacher.

Kiehne is a familiar face in East Central Missouri elections. 

In 2018, he ran against Schatz and lost by 27 percent, though he garnered more than 30,000 votes in what political analysts describe as a reliably Republican district.  

In 2020, Kiehne ran for a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives against incumbent Rep. Dottie Bailey, a Republican from Eureka. Despite losing that race by nearly 30 percentage points, Kiehne received 1,000 more votes than Bailey’s opponent, Cody Kelley,  in 2018.

Kiehne believes his persistence is an asset.

“I’m here, and I’m going to keep fighting and keep gathering up more people,” he said.

As a Democrat, Kiehne knows he faces steep odds in this area. Every state representative in Franklin County is a Republican, and no Democrat has won more than 36.1 percent of votes since 2010, according to previous Missourian reporting.

One of the last Democrats to be elected to the state’s General Assembly representing Franklin County was Jeff Schaeperkoetter, who now resides in Jefferson City but previously lived in Owensville. In 1980, Schaeperkoetter won a seat in the state house representing Gasconade and Franklin counties. He later won a seat in State Senate before leaving the General Assembly to run for Circuit Court Judge. He served three terms in the judiciary before retiring in 2004.  

Despite his campaign appearing to be a long shot, Kiehne said he believes a lot of Missourians agree with his platform. 

“I believe that more Americans and more people in our area share the values that my party espouses,” he said. And he said he believes a lot of Republican talking points aren’t issues that affect Missourians all that much. He pointed out that critical race theory isn’t actually being taught in any District 26 schools, yet conservatives have still staked that out as a key issue to “get people hot under the collar.”

“But in doing so, they’re attacking teachers and superintendents,” he said. Kiehne also used cited gun control and abortion as other examples. “When I look at my bills, abortion and guns has nothing to do with my bills, my family, my yard, my car, my paycheck,” he said. “I think it’s critical that we focus on the stuff that really touches people’s lives.”

To that end, he said his focus will be on education and health care. He said that as the son of teachers, education is a topic that’s really important to him. He’s against school choice, which he said will negatively impact funding for rural and small-town school districts. He also wants to fight for more funding for education in Missouri’s budget. Kiehne said Medicaid expansion, which voters approved in August 2020 but has been caught up in legal battles, needs to be implemented.

He also said that securing funding for Amtrak, which has a route from St. Louis to Kansas City that stops in Washington, would be a priority for him if elected.

When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, Kiehne said he sees the value in getting Missourians back to work and that it is important that District 26 elects people who listen to doctors and scientists.

In the primary election, Kiehne could face fellow Democrat Amy Ryan, who has formed an exploratory committee but has yet to make an official decision. On the Republican side, Franklin County Republican Committee Chairman Ben Brown and State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer are vying for their party’s nomination.