Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. (Photo/Emerson campaign)
— U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson announced Monday she will resign from the House of Representatives early next year to take a job advocating for rural electric cooperatives in Washington, D.C.
In a statement, Emerson said she has found a “new way to serve” the people of southeast Missouri and other parts of rural America by joining the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association as president and chief executive officer.
“I am not leaving Congress because I have lost my heart for service — to the contrary — I see a new way to serve,” she said. “I did not go seeking this opportunity, but I am excited about the new challenge it offers to find ways to promote strong rural policy.”
The process for replacing Emerson in Congress will begin at the level of the 8th Congressional District Committees. Both the Democrats and Republicans will select their nominees, followed by a special election in the district’s 30 counties.
Her announcement sparked a flame in the rumormill among political observers about who may be considering seeking the Republican nomination to replace Emerson when the process begins next year. In that district, the Republican candidate is most certainly the favorite, and the area is not short of political figures who may be willing to run.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has long been rumored to be interested in the seat upon Emerson’s retirement, but could be given a challenge by Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, or even state Rep. Todd Richardson, who some Republicans have hoped to groom for the seat.
Emerson was the most senior member of the Missouri delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite her district’s rural-Republican bend, she made an effort with Democrats to go beyond partisanship — bringing the state’s congressional delegation together for a monthly luncheon and serving as vice chairman of the “Center Aisle Caucus.”
U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, will become the senior member of the state’s U.S. House delegation.