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Jason Smith, flanked by former Rep. Emerson, sworn in as member of U.S. House

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Wasting no time after being elected to represent the 8th congressional district in southeastern Missouri, new U.S. Rep. Jason Smith flew to Washington on Wednesday and was sworn in as a member of Congress less than 18 hours after his victory.

As Smith took the oath of office from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, he was flanked in the well of the House by his predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, and nearly all of the current members of Missouri’s delegation in Congress.

“We hit the ground running, and wanted to make sure that we didn’t waste any time to get up here,” said Smith in his maiden remarks to the House. “I truly look forward to working with every member of this body.”

Standing at the lectern in the well of the House, Smith smiled as he told fellow lawmakers: “Less than 18 hours ago, I was standing with friends and family in my small town of Salem, Missouri, and just got elected.”

Smith said he appreciated the support of the members of the state delegation, including U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who was also present. As is traditional, Smith was given a standing ovation by the House members who were present for the swearing in.

“My goal is to get to know each and every one of you and help move the country forward, one step at a time,” Smith told the House members.

“I know that we’re not going to agree on everything. But, you know what? We need to find those places that we do agree on the issues and then come together and work for the better. And I think we can do that.”

Clay had asked for unanimous consent for Smith to be allowed to take the oath Wednesday even though the official election certificate had not yet arrived. “There is no contest and no question that has been raised with regard to his election,” said Clay.

In response to a request from Clerk of the House Karen Haas, the Missouri secretary of state's office -- which certifies election results -- had transmitted a letter that stated that, although Smith's victory had not yet been certified, there would be no recount because of his huge margin over Democrat Steve Hodges, a fellow state legislator from East Prairie.

Smith had collected about 67 percent of Tuesday's vote.

That assurance from the secretary of state's office was apparently enough to allow the early swearing-in to proceed. Certification could take up to two weeks.

Speaking as the co-deans of the Missouri delegation in the U.S. House, both Clay and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, praised Smith for his success in the Missouri legislature and his deep roots in southeastern Missouri.

“He has distinguished himself as one of the youngest Speaker Pro-Tems in the history of the Missouri House,” said Clay. “He follows in the footsteps of my dear friend, former Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, who represented Missouri’s 8th District for 17 years. I know Mr. Smith will continue her legacy of public service.”

Emerson had retired from the House in February to take a lucrative post as chief executive of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The 8th District seat has been vacant since then.

Smith had been chosen by the 8th District's Republican leaders in a hotly contested nomination process last winter.  Hodges had been chosen via a similar process.

Smith will serve the remainder of Emerson's term, and must face re-election in 2014.

Graves said Smith is a “seventh-generation Missourian, living on the same farm that his great-grandfather once lived on.”

Adding a dash of politics, Graves continued: “Missouri is known as the Show-Me State, and last night Jason Smith won the special election with over 67 percent of the vote. And I think that shows he is truly representative of the 8th District.”

Earlier Wednesday, Blunt told reporters that Smith had “won a significant victory” in his district, by an impressive margin.

“The campaign’s over, and now he’s the congressman from the 8th District," Blunt said. "And I think our whole delegation will be looking for ways they can help him.”

Beacon political reporter Jo Mannies contributed information for this article.

Rob Koenig is an award-winning journalist and author. He worked at the STL Beacon until 2013.

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