With GOP Rep. Jo Ann Emerson announcing she will resign from Congress in February for a new job as the president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Missouri's 8th District joins Illinois's 2nd in holding a special election next year.
And while former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat is safely Democratic, Emerson's district is strongly Republican -- it gave Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., nearly 60 percent of its presidential votes in 2008. So here's an early look at the Republicans who could replace Emerson in the southeastern Missouri district. The GOP and Democratic candidates will not be chosen by primary, but by the respective 8th District party committees. And while Emerson is considered one of the few remaining moderate Republicans in Congress, the field of possible replacements are more conservative, by varying degrees.
Several Missouri Republicans said that the strongest two contenders for the seat would be Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Missouri GOP executive director Lloyd Smith. Both men are not expected to run against each other; the two are longtime friends who both have strong ties to the Emersons -- each worked for the late Rep. Bill Emerson years ago.
Kinder, who decided against a run for governor in 2012 after some embarrassing stories, won reelection in November. He released a statement Monday saying he's giving "careful thought and consideration" to the opportunity. He noted in the statement that his hometown is Cape Girardeau and that he headed Bill Emerson's first two campaigns. Kinder also served as a state senator from a district encompassed by the 8th District.
Smith worked for both Bill Emerson and then Jo Ann Emerson when she won the seat after his death. He has also worked for former Sen. Jim Talent. A Missouri GOP source noted Smith has good donor rapport and that activists know him. Smith, like Kinder, said he was carefully considering the race. He also noted that several people were urging him to seek the seat, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
There are a slew of other Republicans that have either expressed an interest in the seat or are being floated: Former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, who lost to Rep. Todd Akin in the GOP Senate primary this year and whose former state Senate district included some of the western part of the 8th District; state Rep. Todd Richardson, whose father served as minority leader in the Missouri House; and state Rep. Jason Smith (who has already signaled his interest). Others being mentioned as potential candidates include state Sen. Kevin Engler, state Sen. Jason Crowell, Sen.-elect Wayne Wallingford, attorney John Tyrrell, and Cape Girardeau Sheriff John Jordan.