Steve Hodges

Courtesy of Jason Smith's campaign.

Reporting by KRCU's Jacob McCleland contributed to this piece.

Republican Jason Smith easily won a special election on Tuesday to fill Jo Ann Emerson’s vacant seat in the US House of Representatives.

It was a strong night for Smith, as the 32-year old Missouri House speaker pro tem cruised past Democratic rival Steve Hodges 67 percent to 27 percent.

Candidates for Missouri’s Eighth Congressional seat went on the offensive in a debate Tuesday night at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus in Cape Girardeau. The debate comes one week before a special election on June 4.

Democrat Steve Hodges and Republican Jason Smith were joined onstage by the Constitution Party’s Doug Enyart and Libertarian Bill Slantz.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: State Rep. Steve Hodges was a February surprise for southeast Missouri Democrats.

Before then, the East Prairie Democrat wasn’t considered a prospective candidate for the 8th congressional district seat. Soon after former U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, announced her intention to resign to lead the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Hodges told reporters he wasn’t interested in the June 4 contest to succeed her in Congress. State Rep. Linda Black, D-Desloge, became the presumptive Democratic frontrunner.