Make no mistake about it: U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) will win in November. Her well-oiled fund-raising machine and unmatched name recognition combine to make the job of unseating her virtually impossible.
What can one learn by studying the 8th Congressional District race in Southeast Missouri? He can learn that a Republican In Name Only can survive — and thrive — in the Boot Heel of the Show-Me State.
Emerson’s political might and savvy might stem from the fact she was born in 1950 and raised in the Washington, D.C., area in a neighborhood where members of Congress lived next door. The daughter of Ab Hermann, a former professional baseball player who served as director of the Republican National Committee, she went on to earn a degree in political science degree at Ohio Wesley University and hold positions with both the Republican Party and with trade organizations — including one as a lobbyist for the American Insurance Association.
In 1975, she established ties to the district when she became the second wife of future eight-term Congressman Bill Emerson. Those ties grew stronger following her much-loved first husband’s death in 1996 when sympathetic voters elected her in his place.
Today, she stands on a 35-year record of contact with the people of the district which borders the Mississippi River and includes Cape Girardeau, the boyhood home of Rush Limbaugh.
Emerson’s challengers in 2010 include the following candidates:
- Tommy Sowers is an ultra-liberal Democrat without competition in the August primary. A former Army Special Forces officer and instructor at West Point, he appears to be running solely on the strength of his military uniform and hoping little attention is paid to his stands on issues and the people who support him. He is, for instance, admittedly pro-choice and pro-ObamaCare, though you’ll find no specifics about either issue on his campaign web site. Single, he moved back to Missouri from New York to run for the 8th CD seat.
- Larry Bill is an Independent candidate and Air Force veteran who served as a pilot during the Cold War and the Gulf War. Bill is a conservative family man dissatisfied with the offerings coming from both the Democrat and Republican parties. A staunch advocate of First and Second Amendment rights and bringing an end to illegal immigration, he thinks unnecessary federal spending must be brought under control and embraces ideas like the Fair Tax and term limits for members of Congress.
- Bob Parker is the only Republican challenger to Emerson. A cattle rancher and family man who advocates many of the same issues as Bill, Parker has been an outspoken critic of Emerson. In addition to drawing attention to the incumbent’s votes in favor of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and the “Cash for Clunkers” effort, Parker faults her for voting to censure Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) for shouting “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s joint address to Congress on health care reform and for voting in favor of a premature withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
What do conservatives like me, who align more closely to Bill and Parker on most issues, find wrong with Emerson’s record? For starters, they’re troubled by her ties to earmarks.
According to Legistorm, Emerson’s legislative fingerprints can be found on more than $361,314,075 worth of earmarks she sponsored or co-sponsored during 14 years in office. Among the largest pork projects she has sponsored was a $3 million earmark to fund a Congressional Hunger Program that bears her first husband’s name. Based on my review of the program’s web site, it appears taxpayer dollars earmarked for the program pay for college kids to go out and see how the “other half” lives in impoverished parts of the country.
Despite the earmarks and other votes many conservatives would label as “misguided”, Emerson’s constituents seem content with re-electing her time and time again. Citing her stands as a pro-life, pro-Israel and pro-defense congresswoman who usually gets things right, they appear to like the fact that she “brings home the bacon” in the form of costly projects, such as the $170 million Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge (above) and the $62 million Rush H. Limbaugh Federal Building (right).
Someone who would appear to benefit from the “bacon drippings” is Emerson’s second husband, Ronald C. Gladney, whom she married in 2000. A Democrat and attorney who is a member of the St. Louis-based law firm, Bartley Goffstein LLC, Gladney represents 12 powerful labor unions, including the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers for whom he serves as general counsel. One would think they had a hand in building the bridge and the federal building that hosts one part-time judge.
Gladney is also a big supporter of President Obama. According to CampaignMoney.com records, he made matching $2,300 contributions to Obama for America in 2007 and 2008. Since then, he’s contributed only $10 to Obama.
Will conservatives opt to vote for anyone but Emerson? IF history is any indicator and IF they don’t want to risk putting an ultra-liberal Sowers in the seat, the answer will be, “No.” And the Emerson juggernaut rolls on.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s worth noting that there appears to be no familial relationship between Emerson’s husband and Kenneth Gladney, a St. Louis man who was beaten — allegedly by SEIU thugs — at an Aug. 6 health care town hall meeting hosted by Democrat U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri’s 3rd CD.