Jo Ann Emerson (born September 16, 1950) is a politician from Missouri, currently serving her fifth term as the Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from the state's 8th Congressional district. (map)
Emerson was born in Bethesda, Maryland and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University. She married then-lobbyist and future congressman Bill Emerson in 1975. Bill was elected to Congress in 1980 from Missouri's 10th Congressional District and, subsequent to redistricting, was reelected in 1982 from the 8th District. He handily retained his seat through 1994, his final election, before succumbing to cancer on June 22, 1996. The Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, which links Missouri to Illinois across the Mississippi River was dedicated to commemorate his efforts to obtain funding for its construction.
Bill's now-vacant congressional seat was going to filled in a special election and Jo Ann made a decision to announce her candidacy, but Missouri state law prohibited her from filing in the Republican primary. In November, Jo Ann Emerson competed in two elections on the same day. She ran as an independent against Democrat Emily Firebaugh and Republican Richard Kline in the general election and as a Republican against Firebaugh in the special election to finish the last two months of her late husband's term. She won both elections easily and has been reelected four times without serious difficulty. In 2002, Emerson rejected calls for her to run for US Senate against fellow politican and widow Jean Carnahan.
On May 24, 2005, Emerson was one of 50 Republicans to vote in favor of overturning President Bush's ban on federal funding for stem cell research. She cast her Yea vote the day after her mother-in-law died from Alzheimer's Disease, one of the illnesses for which scientists believe they can create better treatments from stem cell research.
Mild controversy has surrounded a letter (dated February 15, 2006) sent to a constituent, Bill Jones, in response to an inquiry about congressional testimony given by oil executives. An unknown individual slipped in the sentence "i think you're an asshole" at the close of the letter. Congresswoman Emerson stated that "there is no excuse for this inappropriate letter having been sent and every apology has been made to the individual who received it". She denied any knowledge of this odd addition to the letter, and an investigation is currently underway.