Updated on February 17 at 12:51 p.m.
Southeastern Missouri Democrats picked state representative Steve Hodges as their party’s nominee in the special election to fill Jo Ann Emerson’s seat in Congress. Committee members picked Hodges at a meeting Saturday in Poplar Bluff.
Hodges nudged out Todd Mahn, a funeral home director from De Soto and former Blodgett mayor Markel Fitchpatrick.
Hodges said Saturday’s nomination was the easy part.
“I know it’s going to be a great challenge. There’s going to be lots of things to do. There’s going to be lots of miles on the road. Lots of long days. Lots of weekends,” Hodges said.
About 140 people packed into a tight church in Poplar Bluff, and 67 of them were Democratic party committee members. There’s no primary for this election. Each party’s district committee votes on a candidate, and Hodges won his party’s nod after a single round of voting.
Hodges has served in the House since 2006, where he represents towns like East Prairie, New Madrid, Hayti, Portageville and parts of Sikeston. Before he first ran for office, he owned and managed an IGA supermarket in his hometown of East Prairie. There, he says he built relationships with generations of customers. Hodges recalls former employees who returned to the store after ten or twelve years to introduce their spouses and kids.
“And so I played a part in their life,” Hodges said. “And that’s what this job is all about. It’s playing a part in people’s lives and trying to do good things. That’s the message I’m going to carry. Because the decisions that we’ll have to make are important decisions. But nonetheless, I’m going to take them to heart and try to do what’s best for the people of the eighth district.”
He describes himself as a conservative Democrat. He’s pro-gun and pro-life, though he lost his endorsement by Missouri Right To Life last year when he supported Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would allow employers to decline insurance coverage for abortions, contraceptives or sterilizations.
“With no disrespect to the Republicans, the Democrats are the party of the people,” Hodges said. “I have a social conscious. I’m concerned about those things. I’m not for giveaways altogether. I think people ought to earn their right.”
Hodges voted against a Voter ID bill in the House last week, and says he supports Nixon’s plan to expand Medicaid coverage. But he wants a balanced budget amendment at the federal level, something championed by Republicans like Senator Roy Blunt.
Wayne County committee member Michael Jackson thinks Hodges is the right man for the election. He says the first thing he heard about Republican nominee Jason Smith was his claim that he’s more conservative than John Boehner.
“We don’t need more conservative than John Boehner,” Jackson said. “And we don’t need somebody who’s not willing to compromise, who’s not willing to talk and work in the best interest of the people instead of the interest of a party. I think Steve can do that and I don’t think his opponent has shown a desire to do that.”
Southeast Missouri State University political scientist Jeremy Walling thinks a conservative Democrat like Steve Hodges is a strong candidate. But Walling thinks Jason Smith is still a heavy favorite in this strongly Republican district.
“Definitely it’s an uphill battle. He’s got a D after his name. And in this district that’s a liability. Is there some scenario where Steve Hodges can win this election? I think absolutely. But it still seems like it’s Jason Smith’s to lose,” Walling said.
Hodges and Smith will also face Libertarian candidate Bill Slantz in the June 4 special election. And that may not be all. There’s still time for independent candidates to get their names on the ballot.
Below is the original report on Steve Hodge's nomination.
Southeastern Missouri Democrats picked Representative Steve Hodges to run in the 8th Congressional District special election in June. Democratic committee members settled on Hodges on Saturday in Poplar Bluff.
Like last weekend’s GOP committee meeting that selected Jason Smith, Democratic committee members picked their party’s nominee.
Hodges beat out De Soto funeral home owner Todd Mahn and former Blodgett mayor Markel Fitchpatrick.
Hodges has served in the Missouri House since 2006. He said he does not make emotional votes and only votes with his constituents’ wishes in mind.
“I’m going to judge things rationally, use common sense, use my background, use my college education … my two degrees … and try to do what I think is best for the people,” Hodges said.
Prior to running for office, Hodges owned an IGA grocery store in his hometown of East Prairie.
Hodges said he and Jason Smith have had a positive relationship in the Missouri House.
“I want this whole election to be operated at a high level, level of integrity. And if it doesn’t, I don’t intend it to be on my part,” Hodges said.
Hodges, Smith and Libertarian candidate Bill Slantz will face off in a June 4 special election to fill out the remainder of Jo Ann Emerson’s Congressional term.
Democrats Pick Rep. Steve Hodges For Congressional Election
Updated on February 17 at 12:51 p.m.