Emerson to resign from Congress on Tuesday

Sunday, January 20, 2013
Jo Ann Emerson

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson will end her 16 years in Congress on Tuesday.

Emerson on Friday said that her resignation would be effective at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Emerson, who took office in 1996 after the death of her husband, Rep. Bill Emerson, is leaving Congress to head the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, she announced last month.

"It's very bittersweet," Emerson said in a phone interview during a break from packing her Washington, D.C., office Friday. "I have very mixed feelings, because I love the district. It's been for me a labor of love all these years, not only during the time that Bill served but during the time I have served as well.

"I have been greatly inspired by our constituents, and that has made the job worthwhile. I can assure you it hasn't been the institution of Congress. It's been the people who have made the difference in this."

Tuesday's resignation will set off a chain of events that will lead to a special election later this year. The date of the election will be set by Gov. Jay Nixon, who intends to announce the date shortly after Emerson's formal resignation, said Nixon's spokesman, Scott Holste.

The process for filling a congressional vacancy includes the secretary of state's office receiving official notice of a vacancy in the district -- in this case, that would be when the governor's office notifies the secretary of state of receipt of a resignation letter and issues a writ of election. The secretary of state's office then notifies chairs of each political party committee, which sets meetings within two weeks for the committees to vote to nominate candidates to run for the open congressional seat. If independent candidates want to run in the special election, they will have to collect signatures from registered voters equal to two percent of the total votes cast in the November 2012 congressional race -- just more than 6,000.

Republican committee chairman Eddy Justice said Friday he will set the official meeting date as soon as he receives word from the secretary of state. Republicans were expected to meet Feb. 9 in Van Buren, Mo., to nominate a candidate from a field of 13 possible nominees. Democrats have not yet released word on their plans.

Emerson had planned to resign in February, but moved up the date. Emerson had said she hoped resigning earlier could help a special election for her seat coincide with an already-scheduled election, saving costs for election authorities. An estimate provided to the Southeast Missourian in December by former Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's office showed the cost of a special election held on its own would cost about $952,000.

Liz Abram-Oldham, director of communications for the newly sworn-in Secretary of State Jason Kander, said no further estimate aboutthe special election has been done.

Tuesday marks the latest Emerson could have resigned and an election still be held to coincide with April 2 municipal elections -- at least 10 weeks notice has to be given to local election authorities before an election can be held to fill a vacancy per state statute. Other already scheduled election dates this year are Aug. 6 and Nov. 5.

Cape Girardeau County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said Friday no elections yet are scheduled for Aug. 6, but the date is available. There is no requirement for the governor to set the special election to coincide with a regularly scheduled election in which there are issues on the ballot. June is no longer an option for a combining a special election with any other election to save money since the state legislature eliminated a June election date from the regular election schedule last year.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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