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Top 10 8th District Congressional Candidates

December 03, 2012 / by / 0 Comment

Staff Reports

We put together a short list of the potential Republican candidates for Congress. The Republicans have an overwhelming advantage in this rural district. We spoke with 8th Congressional District Republican chairman Eddy Justice while he was on plane during a previously planned trip to Mexico. He swore it was long planned and not designed to get away from desperate office seekers. He did let us know his phone was about dead from the crushing amount of phone calls he has been receiving.

He explained that after the congresswoman officially resigns on February 1st the governor will issue a writ of special election and at that point he will have 2 weeks to call a meeting of the entire 8th district committee. The chair and vice chair of each county committee and state house committee will vote on who will be the party’s congressional nominee. Justice informed us that there are 94 positions on this committee.

Here is our list.

1. State Representative Todd Richardson

Poplar Bluff

Todd Richardson

1 Term in the Missouri House

Richardson is an up and coming star in the General Assembly. He is in the hunt for the Speaker’s gavel, and many believe he is likely to have the potential for higher office. Richardson has proven to be a solid fundraiser and impressed many in his first term in the House. It could be in his blood as the son of former Minority Leader Mark Richardson.

He has extremely close connections to 8th District Chairman Eddy Justice chairman of the 8th district committee, and close ties to the Emerson operation as well as Robert Knodell and David Barklage. If he was selected he would easily be able to keep the district in Republican hands. If he is not selected the many other opportunities open to Richardson in the House would make him unlikely to run in a primary. We have confirmed Richardson is exploring the possibility.

Odds: 1 in 4

2. Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman


2 Terms in the Missouri Senate 1 Term as Missouri State Treasurer

Steelman has now lost 2 statewide primaries one for Governor in 2008 and one for U.S. Senate in 2012, but both times there was plenty of buyer’s remorse from Republican primary voters. Steelman is a champion of rural voters, and has a bit of the maverick label she can wear, as well as being the only one on this list who has had an event with Sarah Palin.

Steelman seems is broadly known throughout the district, and could self fund a race this spring against a democrat. While some may criticize a few of her position on labor issues Steelman has many deep relationships in local Republican organizations from the Missouri Constitutional Amendment on Gay Marriage that she sponsored. However, she is unlikely to receive any help from the Emerson operation.

 Odds: 1 in 5

3. State Representative Jason Smith


3 Terms in the Missouri House

Smith is set to become the Speaker Pro Tem in the next session in the General Assembly, and has very good relationships with Republicans in the western portion of the district. Smith is known for deeply engaging on rural issues.  He has been a good fundraiser and is close to many of the key people in and around Emerson’s circle of closest supporters.

Smith’s name has been gaining traction among many big names in Jefferson City and St. Louis. One concern with Smith is that he would have a small geographic base and could face a competitive primary from a Cape Girardeau County candidate in 2014. However, he would have a year and half in office to build relationships and it is thought if he did receive the nomination he would do so by being Emerson’s choice and she would likely help establish those ties. He has told some he has an agreement with Steelman about supporting dating back to her campaign for Senate if the Congressional seat was open, but that is unconfirmed. We have confirmed Smith has been calling area county chairmen for votes.

Odds: 1 in 5½

4. State Senator Kevin Engler


2 Terms in the Missouri Senate 2 Terms in the Missouri House Former Mayor of Farmington

Engler surprised many with his decision to run for election in the House after serving 8 years in the Senate. Well it could be he was waiting for an opportunity such as this to present itself. If who would fare best in a general election was a consideration here Engler would be higher on the list, but this is a selection by a county committee. Engler has been known as a very productive pragmatic Senator, but that has come with the cost of angering some on the right on abortion and union issues.

Engler could very well be a kingmaker in this fight and the sheer force of his personality is likely to keep the votes in his area of the district loyal to him, but that may not be enough to win. One angle he could exploit would be appealing to Emerson for help because of their similar positions on labor issues. While she told reporters this morning she would have no role in picking her successor, that is hard to completely fathom.

Odds: 1 in 8

5. State Senator Jason Crowell

Cape Girardeau

2 Terms in the Missouri Senate 4 Term in the Missouri House

Crowell owns the mantle as the most conservative person being discussed. He also has the mantle as most cantankerous. If this were a primary he would be at the top of the list, but based on his relationship with Emerson he could be a top reason there will be no open primary for this seat. Crowell has reels of press clippings of him taking on the Republican establishment in support of conservative causes. He is hated by the establishment, but loved by the grass roots conservatives.

If Emerson decides to exert influence on this race Crowell won’t be selected. If the MOGOP is able to exert any influence on the race Crowell won’t be selected. If the moderate Republicans from the north end of the district become the key swing votes in the race, Crowell won’t be selected. If establishment Republicans decide the race Crowell won’t be selected. However, some of these chairs aren’t establishment types. If a rebellion against the establishment ensues……then Crowell could be selected.

More likely, if a more moderate person from the western side of the district is selected then Crowell would be the perfect conservative challenger from the most populous area of the district in a 2014 Republican primary. Or he could choose to run as an independent…with Crowell anyone who claims to know for sure what he will do will lie about other things too.

Odds: 1 in 8

6. Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder

Cape Girardeau

3 Terms in the Missouri Senate 3 Terms as Lt. Governor Former Campaign Manger for Bill Emerson

Kinder is probably best positioned to win the district.. If he chose to run he would be the far and away front-runner. He worked for Bill Emerson, he is from the biggest city in the district, and has ran three statewide campaigns on the ballot in every county in the district. The only question is will he run? He is a leading candidate for Governor in 2016 and has the rare quality of a Republican who can win statewide.

Right now the conventional wisdom is that he will not run. If he did he would change the entire landscape. Interesting note, at number 5 he is the first candidate on our list from Cape Girardeau. He could use his contacts to help seal the deal for any potential contender.

Odds: 1 in 10 (unless he changes his mind)

 7. Emerson Chief of Staff Josh Haynes

Cape Girardeau

Chief of Staff to Jo Ann Emerson since April 2009.

Haynes’ promotion to Chief of Staff was seen as a welcome change for most in the district, and since then has only become more popular with area Republicans. Haynes probably knows more people in the 8th district on a first name basis than anyone else. He is universally well liked and respected and in southeast Missouri those two traits are not typically said about the same person.

Haynes is undoubtedly the likely kingmaker in the race, and whoever wins would almost certainly want to keep him in his current position. That is a tough spot to turn down, but if he chose to actively engage himself on his own behalf he would command many votes without even having to ask. Also of note, he hasn’t made any moves to quiet people promoting him.

Odds: 1 in 12 (but one to watch)

8. Political Staffer Loyd Smith

Jefferson City

Former Emerson Staffer and current MRP Staffer

The former Emerson staffer and employee of the Missouri Republican Party at one time would have been a force on this list, but after leaving Emerson’s staff to work under David Barklage at the MOGOP some of the sleaze over his shady dealings in Sikeston began to stick to him.

He is mostly irrelevant in SEMO today. More to the point it isn’t 2000 anymore except to maybe Smith as he has been the source of most all the rumors floating his candidacy. His only path to the nomination seems to be if the other candidates beat themselves up and Smith can knife them from behind.

Odds: 1 in 20

9. Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver 


1 Term as Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney

Oliver is a rising star in the area Republican Party, but this opportunity comes at the wrong time for him. If the seat opened up 4 years from now then he would be much more likely to be in the thick of it. Oliver is a staunch conservative and seems to be likely to inherit the mantle of former Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morely Swingle leaves behind as the highest profile prosecutor in SEMO.

Oliver is likely to hold several votes and be a important part of the winner’s coalition. However, if the committee demanded a more conservative unknown and Crowell was….well Crowell then Oliver could be a possibility.

Odds: 1 in 20

10. Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer


2 Terms in the Missouri Senate 2 Terms in the Missouri House

The timing is simply wrong for Mayer. He just won a judgeship by a landslide and it seems that his window for running for Congress was either last cycle or after a term as judge. He will be hamstrung from actively campaigning for the seat once he is sworn in at the first of the year, and that could debilitate his chances.

The irony is that outside of the timing Mayer would be a perfect candidate. Mayer has represented a large portion of the district as State Senator and has good relationships with the Emerson and Steelman organizations. It just seems as though the timing is off for him this cycle.

Odds: 1 in 25

Others being mentioned:

Tom Schulte, former aide to Senators Bond, Ashcroft, Talent and now Blunt – He has been described as the best federal employee since George Washington. He is loved by all of the locals, but hasn’t made any intention to run known.

Doug Libla, State Senator – Ooooh if it was only two years from now, or even one year. Libla would be the hottest name on the list, but being that he hasn’t even been sworn in yet the timing would be very tough.  However, he could self fund and did make a lot of contacts as the redistricting roller coaster took him to Dent and Howell counties as well as the district he will represent starting in January.

Rod Jetton, former House Speaker – He has left elective politics and is now the owner of the Missouri Political Bug and has shown no intention to re-enter elective politics.

Chuck Purgason, former member of the state house and senate – If his brand of firebrand conservatism were going to catch fire it would have likely been during his 2010 U.S. Senate primary against Roy Blunt

Ward Franz, State Representative – But for a few hundred votes in Ripley County Franz would be near the top of this list. We’ve heard don’t count Franz completely out of a future run for office, but the timing is most likely wrong now.

Steve Tilley, former House Speaker – Tilley would have been the perfect candidate, for Governor, Senator, Congress fill in the blank. Only one problem, he doesn’t want to run for office at this point in his life.

Steve Cookson, State Representative- It’s just too soon for Cookson, but his “Don’t Say Gay” bill certainly won him many devoted followers across the district.

John Jordan, Cape Girardeau County Sheriff – He is floating his name, but would be unlikely to get the committee to recommend him. He would be very strong in a primary as the only Cape Girardeau County candidate.