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Special election for congressional seat to be held June 4

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Today marks the first day in nearly 17 years Missouri's 8th Congressional District will be without a legislator in the U.S. House of Representatives.

It's also the day a special election date set by the state's governor to replace the outgoing U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson will become official.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday afternoon after receiving a resignation letter from Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, that a special election will take place June 4. The election date won't be official until today, when Nixon notifies the secretary of state and a writ of election is issued.

Emerson, 62, the state's longest-serving member of Congress, was elected to a 10th term in the November general election. She departs to begin a job as president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. She announced her intent to resign in early December.

In late December, Emerson moved up her planned resignation date, which was set for Feb. 8, at least partially with the hope that taxpayer money to be spent on a special election could be reduced by combining the special election with April 2 municipal elections, which already were scheduled. An estimate provided to the Southeast Missourian by former Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's office showed the cost for a special election in the 8th District, when not combined with other ballot items, could be about $952,000. Secretary of State Jason Kander's office has not yet done an updated cost estimate.

Emerson told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that she felt the district should have "as little time without a representative as possible" because of major issues being taken up by Congress.

The governor said in a release that the June 4 date will take into account both the time required under state law for candidates to file, as well as requirements under the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, or MOVE, and state law to enable military members overseas to vote.

The last time the 8th District was without representation was 1996, when a vacancy was created by the death of Bill Emerson, Jo Ann Emerson's late husband. She succeeded him in Congress later that year when she won as a Republican in a special election to fill the vacancy until the end of his term on the same day she won a general election as an independent. She filed as an independent because the deadline for filing as a Republican already had passed.

In a resignation letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday, Emerson spoke of her constituents.

"In times of tragedy, they have inspired me with their courage. In times of disaster, they have inspired me with their resilience. In times of uncertainty, they have inspired with me their unwavering optimism. I have been honored to fight by their side. I am very proud of what we have accomplished," she wrote.

The announcement of her departure began a high-profile contest among Republicans in Missouri. More than a dozen have made appeals to members of an 86-person committee that will select a candidate to run in the June election. Several Democrats also are meeting with members of their party's committee with the hope they will receive a nomination.

Republicans are expected to meet Feb. 9 in Van Buren, Mo., to select a candidate. The chair of the committee, Eddy Justice, has said he expects several rounds of voting to take place during the meeting because of the large field of candidates and the number of committee members. A nominee must receive at least 50 percent of the committee's 100 total votes, plus one vote, to receive the nomination. Democrats have not yet set a meeting date but are required by state law to do so within two weeks after the chair is notified of a vacancy by the secretary of state's office.

Candidates from each party, along with any independent candidates, have until March 30, which is the midway point between the date the election is officially set and election day, to file. To file as an independent, a candidate must gather signatures from registered voters equal to two percent of the total votes cast in the November 2012 congressional race -- just more than 6,000.

Emerson's resignation became official at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

The 8th Congressional District covers 30 counties in southeastern and southern Missouri.

Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report.



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