By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Republicans on Tuesday held onto a U.S. House seat vacated by Jo Ann Emerson in southeast Missouri as state Representative Jason Smith easily defeated Democratic Representative Steve Hodges in a special election.
Smith won 67.1 percent of the vote to 27.4 percent for Hodges in the 8th Congressional District with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to results posted by the Missouri secretary of state.
Candidates for the Constitution and Libertarian Parties, along with write-ins, received the remainder of the vote.
Smith, 32, got the Republican nod for the vacant seat over more than a dozen candidates without a primary election when the state Republican committee selected him on the sixth ballot.
Among candidates Smith defeated was Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.
Smith is a lawyer who manages a family farm in Salem. He has served in the Missouri House since 2005 and is speaker pro tem. He was portrayed by his campaign as someone who tried to shrink the size of state government and reduce red tape.
The Missouri Democratic Party chose Hodges, 64, who faced an uphill election fight in a strongly Republican district. Hodges, elected to the Missouri House in 2006, campaigned as a conservative who is anti-abortion and for gun rights.
Emerson announced in January, after winning re-election with 72 percent of the vote in November, that she was resigning after 16 years to take the job of chief executive of the National Rural Electric Cooperative.
Emerson succeeded her late husband, Bill Emerson, in the House seat he held for 16 years.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Christopher Wilson)