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September 21, 2014

10 Things to Know About Jason Smith #MO08

Another Mr. Smith is on track to come to Washington, D.C., following Tuesday’s special election in Missouri’s 8th District.

Missouri Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith, a Republican, is favored to win this heavily GOP district over state Rep. Steve Hodges, a Democrat.

The race to replace former Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., has proved to be a low-profile contest — especially compared to the high-stakes special election earlier this year that brought Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., back to Congress. Emerson resigned to take a job in the private sector in January.

That’s partially because Smith is almost guaranteed a win in this deep-red district, located in the southeastern corner of the state. Mitt Romney carried the district with 66 percent as the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012, and Emerson won by more than 30 points in each of her past few elections.

Special-election polls will close at 8 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. In the meantime, here are 10 things to know about the man who will likely be the next congressman from Missouri:

  1. Smith would be one of the youngest members of Congress if, as expected, he wins on Tuesday. At 32 years old, he is used to such a distinction. He was elected to the Missouri House in 2005 at age 25 and is one of the youngest speaker pro tems in state history.
  2. He is Missouri’s state chairman for the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that drafts legislation for state houses rooted in free-market and conservative principles. ALEC received backlash after it supported provisions such as the Stand Your Ground Law, which proved controversial in the legal proceedings following the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
  3. As the fourth-generation owner of a family farm in Missouri, Smith is interested in agricultural issues. He told CQ Roll Call in a Thursday phone interview that he would welcome a role on the Agriculture or Natural Resources committees, which would also serve his constituents well in the rural district.
  4. Regulatory overhaul has been one of Smith’s biggest priorities as a legislator. He helped overhaul the regulatory process in Missouri as a state representative. In the House, he would like to take on the behemoth challenge of overhauling the federal regulatory process.
  5. Smith would come to the House as a stalwart conservative  — especially compared with his predecessor. He’s received endorsements from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and groups including the Tea Party Express and the National Rifle Association. His conservative credentials will be a change from Emerson’s more moderate Republican chops.
  6. Smith does not support raising the debt ceiling, a top legislative battle looming over Congress later this summer. “I definitely feel like we need to balance the budget, and we need to get serious on having a budget, and I don’t feel its appropriate to continue to raise the debt ceiling until we have a concrete [debt reduction] plan,” he said.
  7. In the special election, both Smith and his Democratic challenger were embroiled in a controversy over missed votes in the legislature. Smith missed three-fifths of votes in the state House; Hodges missed one-fifth of the votes scheduled during their campaigns. According to local reports, the number of missed votes was out of the ordinary for Smith.
  8. Smith admitted he enjoys congressional procedure. Before his current role in the state House, which is the second-highest-ranking position in the body, Smith served as majority whip in that same chamber.
  9. When the Missouri House is not in session, Smith works as an attorney and real estate agent.
  10. Smith volunteers as a Sunday school teacher at a church in Salem, Mo.

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