Missouri 8: Who Will Replace Emerson?

December 3, 2012 · 12:35 PM EDT

The new Congress isn’t even sworn in and we already have a second special election, in Missouri. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s (D) resignation last month set in motion a contest early next year to fill his safe Democratic seat in the Chicago area.

The second special election comes after Rep. Jo Ann Emerson’s (R-Mo.) announcement on Monday that she will resign her 8th District seat in February to head up the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Emerson won re-election in November with 72 percent of the vote. In 2008, John McCain easily won the district with 60 percent of the vote and President Obama didn’t likely do much better there this year.

It’s a very Republican seat and should attract plenty of attention. According to sources in Missouri, early names include Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, former Senate candidate/former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, state Rep. Todd Richardson, former state senator/state Rep.-elect Kevin Engler, former state Sen. Jason Crowell, and state party executive director Lloyd Smith.

The early speculation is likely to center around Kinder. Last cycle he took some criticism when his gubernatorial run never got off the ground, but he was still re-elected in November and has ties to the Emerson family. He was the late-Rep. Bill Emerson’s first campaign manager in 1980 and went on to work for the congressman. Jo Ann Emerson succeeded her husband in Congress after his death in 1996.

There is no risk for Kinder, since he wouldn’t have to leave his office to run, but it’s unclear with he will ultimately decide to officially put his name into the mix.

Besides Kinder, the early candidate to watch is Smith. In addition to being at the state party, he was Jo Ann Emerson’s chief of staff, and he might well have the advantage with local party leaders, who will select the GOP nominee for the special election. 

11:39am Update: "If Smith wants it, it's his," according to another Missouri source. GOP nomination to be decided by 80 local GOP leaders with 92 votes. Kinder would likely be second on the list to Smith, if he decides to pursue it. 

1:45pm Update: According to sources in Missouri, Smith and Kinder are very close and are very unlikely to both make a bid for the nomination. But while Kinder may have been more differential earlier in the process, he is apparently still undecided on putting his name forward.