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Four Weeks After Reelection, Congresswoman Emerson Announces Resignation

Jo Ann Emerson has served in Congress for 16 years; she has represented southeast and south-central Missouri. (Photo credit:

She was just reelected a month ago, but US Representative Jo Ann Emerson, who represents Missouri’s eighth district in southern and south-eastern Missouri, is leaving Congress. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson has details.

Emerson has been in Congress for 16 years, and is seen as just the latest of a string of moderates in Congress to leave their political lives behind. According to a release from her Washington office, she is leaving to become the president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. In that role, she says she he will continue her advocacy for rural communities in Missouri and throughout the country.

Her press release did not specify why she was leaving, but only said she had found a new way to serve.

“I guess I was a little bit surprised, just like you always are when somebody just wins reelection and then decides to leave. But then on the other hand, given the climate in Washington, particularly in Congress, and particularly in the House of Representatives, it’s not terribly surprising,” said Dr. Dan Ponder, a professor of political science at Drury University in Springfield.

“Representative Emerson, while conservative, has been a more pragmatic Republican, often working with the leadership.  And she, according to sources in the past, has been frustrated by some of the more conservative elements, particularly in holding up a lot of legislation, setting up obstacles to compromise, et cetera.  What you see, in general, is more and more moderates leaving, or being defeated, particularly in the Senate, but also in the House,” Ponder said.

Immediately after Emerson’s announcement, Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill issued statements congratulating her.  McCaskill, a Democrat, called Emerson a “middle of the road moderate.”

The United States Constitution addresses what to do in the event of vacancies in Congress:  Article 1, Section 2, Clause 4 says the chief executive of the affected state “shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.”  That means Governor Jay Nixon will likely order a special election for Emerson’s replacement.

Nixon’s office did not go into detail on a special election, but did issue a statement saying that Emerson has been a champion for the people of southeast Missouri and our entire state.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.