With hours left to nominate, Democratic candidate field shifts in 8th District

Friday, February 15, 2013
State Rep. Linda Black speaks at a Democratic committee candidate forum for the 8th Congressional District Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 in Poplar Bluff, Mo. (Fred Lynch)

A field of Democratic candidates vying for a nomination for the 8th Congressional District special election saw some changes in the roster Thursday.

State Rep. Linda Black of Bonne Terre, Mo., announced she was dropping out of the race, leaving state Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie, Mo.; Poplar Bluff, Mo., chiropractor Jack Rushin; De Soto, Mo., funeral home director Todd Mahn; and former Blodgett, Mo., mayor Markel Fitchpatrick still in the running, with one day left until a Democratic committee will choose a nominee.

In a statement Thursday, Black cited her desire to continue representing the 117th House District.

Todd Mahn

"I am honored and humbled at the outpouring of support I have received from residents of the 8th District urging me to run for Congress," Black said in the statement. "However, when voters elected me to another term as state representative last November, it was with the expectation that I would serve a full two-year term."

Black was one of the early entrants into the campaign to receive the Democratic nomination for the June special election to replace former U.S. representative Jo Ann Emerson. Another potential nominee, Barry Aycock, a Parma, Mo., businessman, dropped out of the running several weeks ago.

Hodges joined the race late Wednesday after some hesitation. Shortly after Emerson announced her intent to leave Congress to become president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Hodges said he wouldn't seek the nomination because he was concerned about the organization of the Democratic Party in Southeast Missouri and the amount of money needed to campaign.

Jack Rushin

"I have now been approached by a group who say they are going to assist me with a number of different issues and the process, so I thought, I am at this point in my life interested in serving," Hodges said Thursday, adding "I don't want to get anything out of this but job satisfaction. If I can continue to operate at the level that Jo Ann and Bill Emerson did, and improve on that, that's my reward. I'm interested in working for the people and representing Southeast Missouri."

Hodges first won election in 2006 and has retained his seat despite Republican gains in Southeast Missouri.

The Democratic committee that will select the party's nominee will meet Saturday in Poplar Bluff. The nominee will face House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith, the Republican nominee, and Libertarian nominee, businessman Bill Slantz, in the special election.

Rep. Steve Hodges

Mahn and Fitchpatrick spoke on their candidacy Thursday, while Rushin did not return a call seeking comment after a message was left on his cellphone.

Mahn, who filed to run in the 8th District last year but later dropped out, formed a team and began raising money to campaign as soon as he heard Emerson's announcement.

"I've been visiting with committee members, and I feel good about it," he said of the committee's upcoming selection.

Mark Fitchpatrick

Mahn said the need for better-paying jobs in the region inspired him to run. He also wants to see more legislators working together at the federal level.

"My main thing is that the gridlock in Washington has just got to stop. I watch it go on and go on," Mahn said.

Fitchpatrick said a perceived lack of compromise is a reason he, too, has an interest in being nominated.

"There comes a time in your life when you get angry. And right now I am," Fitchpatrick said. "I'm like anyone else who works hard and wants to see Congress do something, but so many are just immovable."

He worries, he said, for the people of Southeast Missouri.

"I talk to people all over the 8th District every day, and they don't seem to be better off than a year ago, or two, or three years ago. They seem worse off," he said.

Fitchpatrick said he wants to see clear reforms on immigration and better handling of Medicare, Social Security and debt.

He added that he is "pro-life, for guns and a member of the NRA."

Sixty-eight committee members will cast 72 votes to nominate a candidate. The meeting will start at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Poplar Bluff and is open to the public.

Another potential candidate, Thomas Brown, who is seeking to run as an independent, contacted the Southeast Missourian on Thursday. Brown, a retired teacher who lives in Fredericktown, Mo., said he soon will begin circulating petitions in an attempt to get his name on the ballot. Independent candidates can run in the June 4 special election if they gather signatures from registered voters equal to 2 percent of the total votes cast in the November 2012 congressional race -- just more than 6,000 -- and have those signatures certified with the secretary of state by March 30.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

2750 N Westwood Blvd, Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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