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Jason Smith campaigns in Hillsboro

Congressional candidate Jason Smith (lower right) and Ed Martin, state chairman of the Republican National Committee, greet Iris Bennhardt during an appearance in Hillsboro on Monday, May 20, 2013. Smith and Steve Hodges are running to replace U.S. Rep Jo Ann Emerson, who resigned from the 8th Congressional District seat. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

Updated: At 5:30 pm with Smith's comments in an interview.

WASHINGTON -- Less than a day after the polls closed, Jason Smith was sworn into Congress this afternoon after his overwhelming victory in the special election Tuesday for the vacant 8th Congressional District seat.

Smith, 32, of Salem, a Republican who was a state representative, easily defeated state Rep. Steve Hodges in the southeastern Missouri district. He replaces Jo Ann Emerson, who resigned in January to head the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

With 462 of 462 precincts reporting, Smith scored 67.1 percent of the vote and Hodges 27.4 percent.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, administered the oath after reading a letter from the office of Missouri's secretary of state noting Smith's election was certain even though the vote count remained unofficial.

Smith, surrounded by members of the Missouri delegation in Congress placed his hand on a Bible held by Jo Ann Emerson.

"Congratulations. You're now a member of the 113th Congress," Boehner said.

He became a U.S. congressman at 4:26 PM St. Louis time and cast his first vote on an amendment to a Homeland Security spending bill

In brief remarks, Smith noted that less than 18 hours before he had been celebrating his victory with friends and family "in the small town of Salem, Missouri."

He said he intended to get to know all members of the House and that he would seek common ground even with those he disagrees with.

"We hit the ground running," he said of his swift arrival in Washington.

In an interview later, Smith recalled on how he "constantly campaigned on how you need to cooperate with anyone. You just don't compromise on your core values. A lot of times to accomplish things, you have to take one piece of the apple at a time."

The Tea Party Express today congratulated Smith and asserted that he shares the organiztion's values.

Asked if he expects to become part of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, Smith said he was unsure how the caucus process works. He added: "I am conservative, there's no doubt about it. But you can be conservative and still work with people and that's what my intentions are."

Smith already has looked into committee assignments and learned that all but five already have a full complement of Republicans.

Of those that are open, Smith might land on the Judiciary Committee and Natural Resource Committee, he said.

In the House floor ceremony, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, a senior member of the Missouri delegation, said that Smith "has distinguished himself as one of the youngest speaker pro tems in the history of the Missouri House.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who was in the House chamber for the swearing-in, said he expects Missouri's delegation to assist Smith in his new job.

Blunt observed that two other recent additions to the delegation, Ann Wagner, of Ballwin, and Billy Long, of Springfield, have "clearly and quickly become integral parts in what we are doing."

He added: "The campaign's over and now he's the congressman in the 8th District and I think our whole delegation will be looking for ways they can help him."

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