House leader Smith, Lt. Gov. Kinder seek 8th District nomination

Friday, January 4, 2013
Rep. Jason Smith

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been changed to reflect the GOP committee's vote meeting will be open for public observation, to correct that Nixon has appointed Republicans for county offices, and to clarify the process for filling a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office.

A Missouri House leader was in Southeast Missouri on Thursday making pitches to some of the approximately 80 people who will vote to select the Republican nominee to replace Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, on the heels of reports that Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder also is seeking the nomination.

Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, said he was on the road in the 8th Congressional District visiting members of Republican 8th Congressional District Committee to make his case for the nomination. Political party committees made up of county and legislative district committee members soon will cast votes to determine their parties' nominees.

Smith, the House Speaker Pro Tem for the upcoming legislative session, estimated he has met with 80 percent of the GOP committee members who will vote for the nomination during an upcoming meeting. A date hasn't been announced, but two public forums are scheduled this month.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder speaks during a meeting of the Cape County Republican Women's Club Friday, May 4, at Dexter Bar-B-Que. (Adam Vogler)

On Wednesday, Missouri News Horizon reported that Kinder, a Cape Girardeau native, has reached out to committee members to make his case for his party's nod.

Kinder already has begun meeting with some of the members on the 8th Congressional District Republican Committee. A few days before Christmas, Kinder sent a letter to each member, touting himself as a "proven" conservative and a "team player" within the party, the news service reported.

"I have always been a team player. Numerous times, I have put our party above personal ambition. I spent countless years taking and building a Republican majority in both the Senate and the House. I have bowed out of races when I felt it would divide the party or undermine our chances to win," Kinder wrote. "We need a congressman committed to ensure conservative Republicans represent every corner of this district in the state House and state Senate."

GOP committee chair Eddy Justice said the committee's vote will be open to the public.

Missouri Republican Party executive director Lloyd Smith, state Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman reportedly also have reached out to committee members.

Another candidate whose name was floated early on, Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan, announced Thursday that he will not seek the nomination. Jordan, who said before his unopposed re-election bid last year that he might not run again for sheriff, said he is considering another bid for the sheriff's office in 2016.

Kinder has enlisted a portion of his former campaign apparatus to lead his quest. Their hope is that Kinder can meet with each committee member. Michael Hafner, an associate at David Barklage's consulting firm in Jefferson City and St. Louis, has been leading Kinder's campaign.

If Kinder is nominated, and subsequently elected, it would vacate the lieutenant governor's seat. Missouri statutes don't outline an appointment process for a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office, though precedent exists for the governor to appoint someone to fill the office.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has made a recent appointment of a Republican to a vacant office, when he named Chris Limbaugh as Cape Girardeau County's new prosecutor last month. But a statewide office appointment likely would go to a Democrat.

Smith filed a bill Thursday that would change the process, requiring the governor to call a special election after appointing a temporary officeholder for statewide office. Smith's bill would prevent the temporary officeholder from running when a special election is called. That special election would have to coincide with an already-scheduled general election to prevent additional costs.

Smith said the legislation wasn't a direct response to the news about Kinder. He has filed similar bills each of the past five years, but they either didn't make it through the state Senate or, in one case, fell victim to a governor's veto.

Emerson will leave her seat in the next few weeks to serve as president of a Washington, D.C., group that advocates for rural electric cooperatives.

Managing editor Matt Sanders contributed to this report.

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