Missouri Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson announced Monday morning she is resigning from the House, effective in February 2013.
In a release, her office said she would take a job as the president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
"I am not leaving Congress because I have lost my heart for service — to the contrary — I see a new way to serve," she said in a statement. "I did not go seeking this opportunity, but I am excited about the new challenge it offers to find ways to promote strong rural policy."
Once the vacancy is official Gov. Jay Nixon (D) will call a special election. After that, the 8th District party committees will choose their nominees — there will be no primary special election.
The 8th District is a safe Republican seat. Republicans in the state say the top two contenders are Lt. Gov Peter Kinder and the current executive director of the state Republican Party, Lloyd Smith, who was a former chief of staff to Emerson. The two are unlikely to run against each other.
Other potential contenders include former state treasurer Sarah Steelman, state Sens. Kevin Engler and Jason Crowell, state Reps. Jason Smith and state Sen.-elect Wayne Wallingford.
"If Lloyd wants it, it's his," said one Missouri Republican insider who wasn't sure he Smith would take it.
Emerson was first elected to Congress in a 1996 special election. Her late husband, GOP Rep. Bill Emerson, held the seat previously. In her first general election, she won with only 50 percent of the vote. But she has subsequently cruised to re-election victories. She won last month with 72 percent of the vote.