Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., announced Monday that she would resign from Congress in February to take a job as the president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Emerson is one of the few remaining moderate Republicans in the House, and her departure is reflective of the growing polarization on Capitol Hill.
"I am going to miss the constituents I work with every day, the thousands of small business owners, compassionate families, community leaders, students and servicemembers who define the character of Southern Missouri," Emerson said in a statement. "My respect for them is boundless, and I will never forget the wonderful friendships I have gained through my service in Congress. ... And I plan to stay in Congress as long as I can to ensure the gap in their representation is as brief as possible."
Emerson continued, "I am not leaving Congress because I have lost my heart for service -- to the contrary -- I see a new way to serve. I did not go seeking this opportunity, but I am excited about the new challenge it offers to find ways to promote strong rural policy."
Emerson's resignation will trigger a special election in Missouri's 8th Congressional District, the Show-Me State's southeastern, heavily Republican seat. The district gave Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., nearly 60 percent of its presidential votes in 2008.
Emerson won a ninth full term in November. She was first elected in a 1996 special election to succeed her husband, former Rep. Bill Emerson, who died in office.