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.
The outcome was hardly unexpected, especially considering Smith had a considerable fundraising advantage.
The Eighth Congressional District is heavily conservative. The only question was whether voters would instead opt for a conservative Democrat.
Smith beat Hodges in 28 of the 30 counties in the Eighth Congressional District. Hodges carried his home county of Mississippi and neighboring New Madrid County. Smith also performed well at home, trouncing Hodges by more than 2,000 votes.
Southeast Missouri State University political scientist Jeremy Walling says it’s too early to tell what Smith’s election says about the Eighth district.
“This is not shocking in the slightest, but it’s a special election. It was a low turnout election. It was an election in June, for crying out loud. The circumstances are unique,” Walling said. “I’m not sure we’re able to say 'what does this election mean?' because there are so many unique factors here.”
Walling says Smith falls to the right of Emerson on the political spectrum. “The knock on Jo Ann Emerson for so many years is that left to her own devices she would be voting differently on some things and that she’s just not a true conservative. I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that Jason Smith is conservative. Now the question is, is he more conservative than the pulse of this district? That kind of remains to be seen."
Smith could be sworn into Congress as soon as Wednesday.
Smith and Hodges were also joined on the ballot by Libertarian Bill Slantz and Constitution Party candidate Doug Enyart. The third party candidates received a little more than 3,000 votes combined.
The Missouri Secretary of State's office released new numbers Wednesday, finding that turnout for the election was nearly 63,000 voters -- nearly 13 percent of the registered voters in the district.
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel