Will be updated. For full update information, see bottom of article.
Republican U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri says she is leaving Congress in February to become president and CEO for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Emerson announced the plans Monday, just weeks after she won re-election to the southeastern Missouri district.
An Emerson has represented the district since 1981. The 62-year-old Emerson first took office in 1996, replacing her husband, longtime Republican congressman Bill Emerson, after he died of lung cancer in June 1996. She won re-election in November.
Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Lloyd Smith and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman have confirmed interest in seeking the seat.
Newly re-elected Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, also a Republican, voiced that he is "considering" the opportunity in a statement sent to the press:
“I am certainly giving careful thought and consideration to this opportunity to represent the 8th District in Congress. I have long been engaged in federal issues, from the beginning of my career in my hometown of Cape Girardeau heading the first two campaigns for Bill Emerson and working on his staff in Washington to leading the fight against ObamaCare. It would be an honor to serve in Congress.
While I weigh this decision, I am mindful of the fact I was just re-elected Lieutenant Governor and must consider the people's trust in me to serve in that capacity for the State of Missouri.
While it would be an honor to serve, this is a committee decision, and over the coming weeks I will be communicating directly to the members to gauge support for my potential candidacy. It is important to let the committee process take its course, and only after talking to committee members will I make a decision on whether to seek the nomination.”
The 8th Congressional District is mostly Republican. It covers southeastern Missouri, stretching north to include part of Jefferson County south of St. Louis. The district goes west to include Rolla and south-central Missouri's Ozark County.
It's also worth noting that Emerson's top contributor over her Congressional career comes from the organization she will soon lead. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association gave nearly $80 thousand over her 16 years of service.
After announcing her plans to step down, Emerson received numerous commendations from her peers on both sides of the aisle. St. Louis Democratic Congressman Lacy Clay released a statement, calling Emerson a "voice of calm, reason and common sense...I will miss her wise voice as Democrats and Republicans seek common ground to move the nation forward."
So what's next? Once there is a vacancy (which will not be until February), the Missouri G.O.P. lays out what will follow.
Once the Governor and Secretary of State are notified of the vacancy, the Secretary of State will have 24 hours to notify the 8th Congressional District GOP Committee.
The Governor will select the date for the election, and according to RSMO 21.110, he must provide at least 10 weeks notice.
Once the 8th Congressional District GOP Committee is informed of the vacancy, the Chairman of the committee will call a meeting of the committee to select a Republican candidate to run in the special election. The meeting must occur within the congressional district, and a majority of members of the committee must attend in person.
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Updated 10:40 a.m. with indication of Smith, Steelman interest in filling the seat. Updated at 12:25 with information on the NRECA funding Emerson's campaign, statements from peers and the next steps. Updated 1:56 p.m. with Kinder statement.