GOP possibles line up to fill Emerson's US House seat

Dec 4, 2012

Credit United States Congress

Southern Missouri Republicans are jockeying for their shot at Jo Ann Emerson’s seat in the US House.

Emerson announced her retirement from the Congress on Monday.

And, there’s no lack of interested candidates. The GOP list of potential candidates is growing longer than a first grader’s wish list to Santa Claus.

Missouri Republican Party executive director Lloyd Smith and Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder have both expressed interest; former treasurer Sarah Steelman’s name has been mentioned in several media reports.

Senator Kevin Engler says he is surveying the lay of the land, while fellow Senator Jason Crowell is still thinking about it. Representatives Wayne Wallingford, Todd Richardson and Jason Smith have floated their names, as well as Cape Girardeau County Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracey.

The Republican Party’s 8th District Committee will hand-pick that party’s candidate. Emerson says she will have no input in the decision: “I think that it’s their responsibility to allow the 8th District Congressional Committee to evaluate all interested candidates for the position," she said. "That’s their decision. That’s how democracy works. And I need to stay out of it.”

Southeast Missouri State University political scientist Jeremy Walling says the Republican Party has an important choice on their hands here. The party can choose a candidate without tea party interference. But, he says, it all depends on the direction the party wants to take ... between a young, less proven politician, or a savvy veteran like Lloyd Smith:  "He’s done great things for the Republican Party. But does the party want to go with someone like him, who’s probably a sure thing if they field him as a candidate, or do they want to go somebody who’s younger and more dynamic and who maybe will stick around for a long time. And that remains to be seen.”

Rick Althaus teaches political science at Southeast. He says the Democrats have fewer options in their bullpen: “There aren’t a lot of current Democratic officeholders here," he said, "so there’s kind of a small population to select from. We’ve got recent Congressional opponents of Jo Ann, Tommy Sowers for example, or others. So those might be somebody who might be considered.”

Althaus floated one dark horse candidate - Congressman Russ Carnahan, who will be redistricted out of the House. A Carnahan spokesperson said he had not yet spoken to the St. Louis area Congressman about the race.