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Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO/8th District). (MCT)

WASHINGTON • Jo Ann Emerson this morning followed through with her plan to resign from Congress, freeing Gov. Jay Nixon to call a special election to replace her.

Nixon later announced he will set a June 4 date for the special election. 

Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican, is leaving after 17 years in Congress to head the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.  She replaced her husband, Bill, in the job after his death.

She formally resigned in a letter to Nixon and told House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that her resignation is effective at midnight tonight.

Serving in Congresss, she wrote, was "an incredible honor, a welcome challenge and a deeply rewarding endeavor."

In a statement accompanying her resignation letter, Emerson called constituents in her southeastern Missouri district "smart, strong citizens who are always ready to lead."

She added: "At a time when the popularity of Congress hovers in the single digits, it has never been more important for us to instill their virtues in our elected representatives."

Members of the 8th District Congressional Republican Committee are free now to decide among a crowded field of applicants on a candidate to run as her replacement in the GOP-leaning district.

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