On June 4, Missouri voters will cast their votes in a special election to fill a vacancy in the 8th congressional district, left open by the resignation of Jo Ann Emerson. Jason Smith, Speaker Pro Tem of the Missouri House of Representatives, is the Republican candidate, while Steve Hodges, a state representative, is hoping to pick up the district for the Democratic Party.
Emerson left office in January to head the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. She has held the district since November 1996, when she succeeded her husband following his death due to cancer. Her husband, Bill Emerson, served in Congress from 1981 until his passing. The Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, crossing the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, the district’s largest city, was named in his honor.
Following the defeat of Congressman Ike Skelton in the 2010 midterms, Jo Ann Emerson was the senior member of Missouri’s congressional delegation. Her voting record was somewhat moderate, including votes to overturn President George W. Bush’s federal ban on stem cell funding, and to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. The eight-term representative won seven of eight of her congressional terms with over sixty percent of the vote.
Historically, the district, which encompasses twenty-eight counties, has elected twelve Republicans and fourteen Democrats to Congress. Among its electoral history, it was safely held by Democrats from 1873-1881, 1897-1921, 1925-1943, and 1949-1981. Republicans have held the district from 1863-1873, and from 1981 on. In Presidential elections, the district is much more likely to support Republicans, giving John McCain a 25-point lead in the 2008 campaign against then-Senator Barack Obama.
Smith’s campaign website lists a desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, creating jobs, balancing the budget, and “protecting God’s gift of life.” He has received endorsements from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican candidate for the Presidency in 2012, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a GOP candidate for President in 2008. Smith earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics and Business Administration from the University of Missouri, as well as a Juris doctorate from the Oklahoma City University School of Law.
Smith’s Democratic opponent, Hodges, has also voiced some opposition to abortion, as well as gun control. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Southeast Missouri State University, which is located in the district, and his MBA from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His campaign website expresses support for “Conservative Missouri Values”, family farms and small businesses. Both Smith and Hodges are running as small business owners and supporters.
They aren’t alone on the ballot. The Libertarian Party has nominated Bill Slantz for the 8th district race. Slantz considers his views taking “the best” Republican and Democrats have to offer, and working together on common ground to forge progress and bipartisanship. The Libertarian Party has some momentum in Missouri, having captured 3.5% of the 8th district’s vote in the 2012 election. The Constitution Party, which positions itself to the right of the Republican Party, nominated Doug Enyart, a retired Marine, who is campaigning for small businesses, against overregulation, and for keeping jobs in the United States. His campaign website can be found here.
Voters have until Wednesday to request an absentee ballot ahead of the June 4 special election.