Washington – U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, the only pro-labor Republican in Missouri’s congressional delegation and one of a handful of Republicans in state government who are supportive of labor, announced she will retire from the House next year to become the Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Her announcement immediately set off a scramble among at least a dozen Republican lawmakers who began jockeying for the GOP nomination to succeed her. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who just won re-election, is considered the front-runner for the nomination if he should choose to enter the race. Kinder has been supportive of labor on some issues during his 20 plus years in state government.
The Republican Congressional Committee for the 8th District will choose a nominee. The district includes southeastern Missouri from part of Jefferson County to the Bootheel and much of the southern Ozarks. Gov. Jay Nixon will call a special election next year.
Democratic names that have surfaced since Emerson’s announcement include former U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan of St. Louis, his sister, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, and Tommy Sowers, who unsuccessfully challenged Emerson in 2010.
No Democratic candidate has ever seriously threatened Emerson in her re-election campaigns, which she has won with majorities of 60 percent or more.
Emerson, the first Republican woman ever elected to Congress from Missouri, succeeded her husband in 1996 after his death. Her husband, Bill, represented the district since 1980 and was the first Republican to ever occupy the office. Several years later, she married Ron Gladney, a St. Louis labor lawyer and lobbyist, who represents the Missouri AFL-CIO and other unions.
Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill complimented Emerson in a public statement. “Jo Ann is a middle-of-the-road moderate — an approach I know firsthand can sometimes be a lonely one. Our state has benefited from Jo Ann’s public service, and I wish her the best and look forward to continuing our work together for Missouri.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay of St. Louis, who will become the dean of Missouri’s congressional delegation, also complimented Emerson. In a statement, Clay said Emerson “has represented southeast Missouri with honor and integrity. Jo Ann has always been a voice of calm, reason and common sense. She is a skilled legislator, a wonderful colleague and a great friend of mine. She represents the best of Missouri. I will miss her wise voice as Democrats and Republicans seek common ground to move the nation forward.”