Vote looming for GOP in 8th

Friday, February 8, 2013

More than a dozen would-be candidates for Congress have traveled many miles to ensure their messages are heard. Since early December, they've talked in living rooms, coffee shops and auditoriums. They've garnered endorsements, sent video advertisements, assembled teams of supporters and stuffed mailboxes across the 8th Congressional District.

After Saturday, the race to join Congress will continue for only one.

A committee of 86 Republicans is set to choose a candidate this weekend for a June special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. A nomination meeting begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the River Centre in Van Buren, Mo. It could last up to several hours as the committee nominates and votes for candidates.

More than one round of voting is quite likely, said Eddy Justice, the committee's chairman, inasmuch as the candidate who wins the nomination must receive 50 percent of the committee's votes, plus one.

During rounds of voting, candidates who receive no votes will be eliminated from the contest, as will the candidate who receives the fewest votes.

Organizers of Saturday's event are expecting a large crowd of observers since results of the committee's vote essentially may determine the district's next congressional representative. The special election will include candidates nominated by other political parties, but district voters have leaned increasingly toward Republican candidates during the last three decades.

Seating for 450 people is being set up in the Van Buren auditorium, Justice said, and there will be some standing room available. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. A news conference with the nominee is planned after the meeting.

Speculation about which Republican will garner the nomination has reverberated throughout the district since Dec. 3 when Emerson announced her intention to leave Congress. As many as 20 Republicans once were said to be in the running, but as of Thursday the field narrowed to 11. Among front-runners named through indications of support by the committee and various media outlets are former state Sen. Jason Crowell, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, state Rep. Todd Richardson, Missouri House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith and former Missouri Republican Party executive director Lloyd Smith. Also seeking the nomination are former congressman Wendell Bailey, Cape Girardeau County Associate Circuit Judge Scott Lipke, rancher and real estate investor Bob Parker, former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, Cape Girardeau County Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy and John Tyrrell, an attorney from Mountain Grove, Mo.

Wayne Wallingford, a state senator from Cape Girardeau, dropped off the roster last week, and a spokesperson for Sen. Dan Brown of Rolla, Mo., confirmed Thursday that Brown no longer is seeking the nomination.

Candidates participated in two public forums in January and have employed various strategies to gain support. Justice said types of communication between the candidates and committee members have ranged from personal visits to emails and phone calls along with "handwritten notes all the way up to very professional pieces of campaign literature."

"It's been the full gamut of contact," Justice said. "You have to give the candidates credit -- they've been very creative in their methods of trying to get the committee members' attention."

Endorsements have come belatedly for some candidates. Kinder this week received one from conservative activist and well-known author Phyllis Schafly, while Crowell has been endorsed by Chuck Purgason, a Republican former state senator who worked closely with Crowell during their time together in the Legislature. Other candidates, like Richardson, said they have not received endorsements because they have not sought any. Richardson did, however, grab attention this week among the committee when he sent them a video advertisement in which he talks about his family and his values.

"I wanted to give the committee a chance to see the type of conversation I wanted to have with voters across the 8th District if I was selected as the nominee," Richardson said Thursday. "I also wanted to give a 'from-the-heart' explanation of why I'm running."

Jason Smith is said to have met in person at least twice with nearly all committee members during the campaign for the nomination. Lloyd Smith said Thursday he also has used in-person visits as a strategy and has sent a series of personal letters to committee members. Lloyd Smith's letters, which he shared with the Southeast Missourian on Thursday, give the committee members insight into how he became a self-proclaimed conservative Republican after growing up in a Democratic household and details his positions on issues such as spending, defense, agriculture and energy.

Kinder was in Cape Girardeau Thursday meeting with a committee member. Crowell also has been meeting with the committee members one-on-one and in groups, "sharing my conservative record and listening to their concerns," he wrote to the Southeast Missourian on Thursday. He also said he has "regional 'captains,' supporters who are committee members who are contacting other committee members as well."

A nomination followed by winning the special election could mean a long tenure in Congress for a Republican if Emerson's more than nine terms is any indication of the party's ability to hold onto the district. Some committee members have said the length of service a candidate can offer the district is important; they also have said another factor in their decision may be whether more special elections would be needed because of a candidate leaving current office to move on to Congress.

Justice described the committee on Thursday as a group "very dedicated to researching and making sure they have all the facts before they vote."

He also said he believes the outcome of Saturday's meeting is "completely unpredictable," adding that as many as 25 committee members have not indicated how they are going to vote.


Pertinent address:

Van Buren, Mc

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