Republicans select young lawmaker to replace Emerson

A young Missouri lawmaker who promised a “fresh approach” and denounced federal fiscal irresponsibility won the Republican nomination Saturday to replace U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who has resigned.

State Rep. Jason Smith of Salem prevailed after six rounds of voting by an 84-person committee of local Republican leaders, and immediately becomes the favorite in a June 4 special election in the GOP-leaning 8th District.

“We’re going to win this seat,” Smith declared to fellow Republicans after accepting the nomination.

“The fiscal responsibility in Washington, D.C., is what’s destroying our country, and we’ve got to take control of it and get it back.”

At age 32, Smith would be one of the younger members of Congress, but he already has plenty of experience as a lawmaker. Smith won a special election to the Missouri House in November 2005 and, because of term limits, is now one of the most senior members of the chamber. After serving as majority party whip, his colleagues elected him as House speaker pro tem in January.

During a speech Saturday before committee members began voting, Smith pledged to “bring a fresh approach” to conservative policies.

Missouri’s 8th Congressional District is one of three vacant seats in the nation, but it’s the only one where party leaders are choosing the candidates. Democrats will select their nominee next weekend.

Emerson, 62, resigned Jan. 22 to become president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, ending a 32-year run of family representation in Congress.

Her late husband, Rep. Bill Emerson, first won the seat in 1980 and served until he died in 1996.