Rep. Jo Ann Emerson
The new congressional session has not even begun yet, and already two special elections are being called in early 2013. In previous reports we have covered the resignation of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL-2) and the primary and special general that will be held in his former district on Feb. 26 and March 19 respectively, but now another new extraordinary election cycle will begin in Missouri.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO-8) announced that she will leave the House in early February to assume the presidency of the Rural Electrical Cooperative Association. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) will schedule one special election more than likely within 100 days after the seat officially becomes vacant. Under Missouri election law, the local county parties will choose their replacement nominees, so no primary voting will occur.
Missouri’s 8th District occupies the southeastern sector of the state, a rural 30-county region that contains the Ozark National Scenic Riverway, the Mark Twain National Forest, the state’s “boot heel” region found at the most southeastern point of Missouri that effectively splits Arkansas and Tennessee, and the town of Cape Girardeau – the boyhood home of conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh.
MO-8 is the second-most Republican district in the state, behind only the adjacent 7th CD. It gave President George W. Bush 62 percent of its votes in 2004, and John McCain 60 percent in 2008. The Obama-Romney 2012 numbers are not yet available by Missouri congressional district, but it is a virtual certainty that Republican nominee Mitt Romney also topped 60 percent. Despite Missouri losing a seat in reapportionment, the 8th kept 86 percent of its territory from the previous redistricting cycle.
Emerson served in the House since 1996, replacing her late husband Bill Emerson who was originally elected in 1980. After her original special election victory, she went onto win a full term in November of ’96 and has cruised to re-election ever since. Her last competitive race came in 2010, when former Army Special Forces Major Tommy Sowers raised over $1.6 million to challenge the congresswoman, but couldn’t even muster 30 percent of the vote. Pres. Barack Obama then appointed Sowers to replace now Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8) as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Already mentioned as possible Republican congressional candidates are Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, state GOP executive director Lloyd Smith, former state treasurer and recent US Senate candidate Sarah Steelman, and at least four state legislators. Smith is a former chief of staff to Emerson. Lt. Gov. Kinder is a former staff member to the late Congressman Emerson.
This should be an easy Republican hold in a special election, but the party has performed poorly in these sorts of campaigns during the recent past. Much more will unfold very shortly.