It took six ballots and a field of candidates that went from a dozen to three, but, when it was over, Republicans in Missouri picked 32-year-old State Rep. Jason Smith as their nominee in the special election to succeed former GOP Rep. JoAnn Emerson.
Although stalwart conservative Smith has been in the state legislature for seven years and rose rapidly through the House leadership to become speaker pro tem, his nomination by the 83-members of the 8th District committee is nonetheless considered an upset. In leading the 12-candidate pack and finally winning more than a majority of votes needed to nominate on the sixth ballot, Salem lawyer Smith overcame some of the Show Me State‚??s best-known Republicans: Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, former State GOP Executive Director (and longtime Emerson top aide) Lloyd Smith, State Sen. Jason Crowell, and State Rep. Todd Richardson, himself the son of a former state legislator.
With committee members meeting at The Landing in Van Buren, Mo., the sixth and decisive ballot yielded 55 votes for Smith, 21 for Kinder, and 20 for Crowell.
‚??You have to remember Jason was one of the first and perhaps the only candidate who met all of the  committee members in person, one-on-one, and that counts for something here in Missouri,‚?Ě veteran Missouri Republican consultant Michelle Colbert told Human Events. ‚??Remember, he started raising animals at the age of 14 and later helped put himself through school doing that. Jason‚??s always been a hard-charger.‚?Ě
Others in the 8th District noted that ‚??we had quite a few truly independent people on the [district] committee. Some were tea partiers and some were Ron Paul supporters.‚?Ě Many of that group strongly resented the way some in the party are trying to undercut the new state chairman, tea party favorite Ed Martin, and were thus not inclined to back a candidate they regarded as of the “establishment.”
As they all took virtually the same conservative positions on social and economic issues as Smith, Kinder, Lloyd Smith (no relation), Crowell, and Richardson would all blanch at being branded “establishment.” Kinder, in fact, had a long-standing record of fighting for conservative issues, including fathering the state‚??s ban on partial birth abortion and launching a lawsuit against Obamacare. But, sources in Missouri told us, because he and the other three had been on the political landscape for so long there was a perception‚??fairly or otherwise‚??that they were ‚??establishment.‚?Ě The 58-year-old Kinder may also have been hurt by the scenario of his resigning as Missouri‚??s second-highest official and thus giving Gov. Jay Nixon the opportunity to appoint a fellow Democrat.
So Jason Smith triumphed among fellow Republicans Saturday and became their nominee for Congress in a district that has been in GOP hands since 1980. With the first special election of the second Obama administration set for June 4, the odds are strong that Mr. Smith will go to Washington.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter