Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

GOP's Smith Takes 8th District; at 32, Conservative Will Become One of the Youngest Members of Congress

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

GOP's Smith Takes 8th District; at 32, Conservative Will Become One of the Youngest Members of Congress

Article excerpt

Conservative Republican state Rep. Jason Smith, whose steep rise in Jefferson City coincided with Missouri's sharp political move rightward, is headed for Congress.

Smith, 32, of Salem, easily won Tuesday's special election for the vacant 8th Congressional district seat in southeastern Missouri, beating fellow state Rep. Steve Hodges, D-East Prairie, by a more than 2-to-1 ratio.

With 446 of 462 precincts in, Smith led Hodges by 41,413 votes to 16,847, or about 67 to 27 percent.

Smith said in an election night interview with the Associated Press that he planned to fly to Washington today with the hope of quickly taking the oath of office.

"We've been without representation in the 8th District the last 134 days, and I'm going to stay up there until the speaker of the House will swear me in," Smith said.

Hodges, 64, said late Tuesday that he believed his campaign's focus on preserving Social Security and Medicare was beginning to resonate but that there wasn't enough time in the short campaign to persuade voters in the heavily Republican district to switch sides.

"I took a step back tonight, but I'm going to take two steps forward tomorrow," said Hodges. "I'm not going to make any excuses."

Constitution Party candidate Doug Enyart of Piedmont and Libertarian Bill Slantz of St. Charles finished at about 3.6 percent and 1.6 percent of the vote, respectively.

Smith, a bachelor attorney from a fourth-generation farm family in southeastern Missouri, will succeed former U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, who resigned in January to go into the private sector.

Smith will be seated in Congress within a month and will become one of its youngest members.

He also goes in with a hard-right political philosophy that sharply contrasts with that of Emerson, who was widely viewed as a moderate.

Smith's victory wasn't a surprise. A GOP win was widely predicted in the conservative rural district since before the party nominee was even chosen.

Smith was elected to the Missouri House in 2005 at age 25 and went on to become one of youngest speaker pro tems in state history. …

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