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Jason Smith Wins GOP Nomination For 8th Congressional District

Jacob McCleland

Jason Smith, a 32-year old state representative from Salem, won the Republican nomination for the 8th Congressional District special election at a meeting in Van Buren on Saturday. Smith's nomination took nearly three hours and six rounds of voting.

Smith emerged over a crowded field of ten candidates that included veteran politicians like Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, Bill and Jo Ann Emerson's former staffer Lloyd Smith and former state senator Jason Crowell.

Smith won over an electorate of 84 Republican committee members who represent each county and state congressional district within the U.S. Congressional district. Two Republican committee members were absent. Smith gathered 28 votes in the first round. Per committee rules, the winning candidate must win a majority of votes to secure the nomination. After each round of voting, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Mountain Grove laywer John Tyrrell was eliminated after the the initial round.

Jason Smith continued to accumulate more votes each round as other candidates saw their numbers fluctuate. Rep. Smith received 33 votes in the second round, 34 in the third, 39 in the fourth round and 47 in the fifth.

After five rounds of voting, Smith's nomination was all but certain. By that point, Tyrrell, Clint Tracy, Scott Lipke, Wendell Bailey, Bob Parker and Todd Richardson had all been eliminated. Only Lloyd Smith, Peter Kinder and Jason Crowell stood between the young representative and the nomination. Lloyd Smith withdrew his candidacy after the fifth round, which all but secured Jason Smith's victory.

He gathered over 50 percent in the next round.

Smith will now take on the winner of the Democratic and Libertarian nominations in a special election on June 4.

The seat was vacated after Republican Jo Ann Emerson resigned from Congress to take a job as president of a rural electric cooperative trade group. Missouri's Eighth Congressional District stretch across much of southern Missouri and leans heavily Republican.

Jason Smith said he traveled ten thousand miles during the campaign, and that should help prepare him for the election.

“I have foot soldiers in every one of the 30 counties. I have some very good friends who can be my ears and eyes on the ground and making sure wether I need to be at an event in Cape Girardeau or an event in Pemiscot County or an event in Texas County. I already have the groundwork laid, and that’s why we’re going to hit the ground running starting right after this press conference,” Smith told reporters after he secured the nomination.

Asked if he would seek Emerson’s endorsement, Smith said he wouldn’t refuse anyone’s endorsement because he wants to be inclusive. He cited his campaign to 86 committee members,  many of whom do not share the same beliefs.

“We had the liberty-minded Republicans. We had the Tea Party Republicans. We had the moderate Republicans,” Smith said. “These folks chose a candidate today. And we all need to work together. So I’ll take the endorsement of anyone that will help me. As long as it’s not the animal rights activists groups. I won’t talk that.”

The Republican candidate described himself as a conservative who will bring a fresh approach.

“I’m definitely more conservative than speaker {John} Boehner,” Smith said. “But you know what? You can still work with him. And I want to be able to use my relationship and to explain policy that I think that can make southeast Missouri and the United States a much better place for us to live, work and raise a family.”

When asked about the 8th district’s widespread poverty, Smith said government regulations are one of the principal causes.

“If the National Park Service comes forward with a new management plan that restricts access to the river, or they try to create a wilderness area or close trails, that’s only going to eliminate jobs in Shannon County, Carter, Reynolds, Dent, Oregon, Ripley. That’s how government continues to chip away at our area. And that’s when we’re going to have to fight back,” Smith said.

Smith is the speaker pro tem in the Missouri House. He says he can maintain his leadership position in Jefferson City while campaigning in southern Missouri.

Democrats will choose their nominee on Saturday, February 16. The Libertarian party will run businessman Bill Slantz.