Rep. Emerson won't join race for governor

Monday, January 28, 2008 | 1:41 p.m. CST; updated 5:30 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson won’t be joining the field of Republicans vying to replace Gov. Matt Bunt.

The congresswoman from southeast Missouri said Monday she had “searched her soul” over the past few days and has decided to remain focused on serving her constituents in the House.

“Maybe under different circumstances, I would have made a different decision,” she told reporters on a conference call. “I can’t close the door to any future opportunity, but ending my service to the 8th District in Congress requires a darn good reason, and today, for me, the race for governor just isn’t it.”

Blunt’s announcement last week that he would not seek re-election sparked a frantic scramble among Republicans who are considering jumping in the race. State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder have already announced plans to run for the office and several others are considering bids.

Emerson’s House colleague, GOP Rep. Kenny Hulshof, is weighing a bid for the seat and would be considered one of the serious contenders if he decides to run. Emerson said she was not ready to discuss which candidate she would endorse but stressed that the next governor “must work with members of both parties to forge consensus and achieve results.”

Emerson said she made her decision after spending the weekend in the Cape Girardeau area listening to advice from friends and relatives. Known for her moderate positions on issues such as health care, trade and the Iraq war, Emerson said she still has unfinished work left in the House. She also stands to gain more power on the influential House Appropriations Committee following the retirement of a number of Republicans this year.

Emerson said she plans to run for re-election to her seventh term in Congress.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., planned to hold a second conference call Tuesday with the state’s congressional delegation, statewide officeholders and other party leaders to gauge the status of the race. He has stressed that he is not favoring any potential or announced candidate at this point.

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