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Emerson to leave House to head National Rural Electric

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a leading advocate on hunger issues, announced today that she will retire from Congress early next year and become the chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association on March 1.

Emerson will succeed Glenn English, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

Emerson was first elected to Congress in 1996 from Missouri's eighth congressional district to succeed her husband, Bill Emerson, who died. She has since served nine terms.

NRECA noted in its announcement that in addition to work on agriculture, Emerson is also known for her work on energy issues.

She also serves as co-chair of the Tuesday Group, is a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and holds a position on the board of the Congressional Hunger Center.

Emerson’s departure reduces the ranks of the Republican moderates in the House.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said her departure was a further sign that Republican moderates have grown weary of service under conservative leadership.

“Congresswoman Emerson saw the writing on the wall from this election — it’s better to ditch the Tea Party Republican Congress than to stand behind it,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Congresswoman Emerson is the latest moderate Republican to ditch House Republicans, a sign that no moderates are welcome in the Tea Party House Republican Caucus.”

But Emerson said in a statement, “I am not leaving Congress because I have lost my heart for service — to the contrary — I see a new way to serve. 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."

The first Republican woman from Missouri to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, Emerson graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and held executive roles in communications and government affairs positions with the National Restaurant Association and the American Insurance Association before being elected.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association represents more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.