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Emerson sets departure date: 11:59 p.m. on January 22

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 18, 2013 - U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, will no longer represent Missouri’s 8th District as of 11:59 p.m. next Tuesday.

Emerson said in a telephone interview Friday that her timing is aimed at encouraging Gov. Jay Nixon to call a special election on April 2, a regular election date.

By law, the governor’s announcement setting a special election must be at least 10 Tuesdays before the date, she said. “We’re giving him 11.”

She said she is sending a letter to the governor stipulating the exact day and time that she is stepping down.

Emerson had announced about six weeks ago that she planned to resign from office in order to become the new chief executive for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, effective March 1. At the time, her initial plan had been to leave Congress in early February.

She then told the Beacon a month ago that she was going to step from office earlier than initially planned, in order meet the 10-Tuesdays requirement for advance notice for an April 2 vote.  At the time, she did not announce her specific departure date.

Emerson is seeking an April 2 special election in order to save money for state and local election authorities, since many local jurisdictions already plan to hold an election on April 2 for other matters.  Otherwise, a special election solely to elect her 8th District replacement could cost taxpayers $1 million, the secretary of state’s office has said.

Emerson said she “had a very good initial discussion’’ with Nixon in December, to discuss the necessary timing of her departure in order to meet the requirements that he would need to call an April 2 election.

She also has been paying attention to the contest among the crowded field of Republicans – currently totaling 13 – who are vying for the GOP nomination for the special election.

Emerson said she had watched Thursday’s candidate forum, set in Cape Girardeau, online from Washington.  She emphasized that she is not endorsing any of the Republican hopefuls.

Emerson did note that she cared about getting a strong replacement in her job “because I plan to keep my permanent residence in Cape,’’ which would make her a constituent of her successor.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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