Dave Drebes at Missouri Scout had the first scoop, and he got it right – southeast Missouri Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson says she will retire from Congress in February 2013 to become President and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. In that role, the congresswoman says in a statement, she “will continue her advocacy for rural communities in Missouri and throughout the country.” More from the congresswoman: “I am going to miss the constituents I work with every day, the thousands of small business owners, compassionate families, community leaders, students and service members who define the character of Southern Missouri. My respect for them is boundless, and I will never forget the wonderful friendships I have gained through my service in Congress … And I plan to stay in Congress as long as I can to ensure the gap in their representation is as brief as possible. 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 … Our district has earned its reputation for commonsense above all else, and I will leave Congress in February with a heavy heart despite my confidence that Southern Missouri and its standard for leadership will endure.” Political party committees would select nominees for a special election to succeed Emerson in the Republican-heavy 8th District. The frontrunner is Cape Girardeau native and Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, who just won a third, four-year term and who got his political start more than three decades ago working for Emerson’s late husband, Congressman Bill Emerson.