JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Several Missouri Republicans have confirmed interest in succeeding U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson after her planned retirement.

Emerson announced Monday she will leave her congressional seat in February to become the president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Lloyd Smith, former state treasurer Sarah Steelman and state lawmaker Kevin Engler, of Farmington, said they have some interest in the seat.

The 8th Congressional District is Republican-leaning and covers southeastern Missouri. It stretches north to include part of Jefferson County south of St. Louis and west to south-central Missouri.

It will be the first time in about 30 years an Emerson has not represented the district in Congress. Emerson first won office in 1996, replacing her husband, Bill Emerson, after his death.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today released the following statement in response to Representative Jo Ann Emerson's announcement that she will retire from Congress:

"I congratulate Representative Emerson on her years of work for Missouri. Jo Ann is a middle of the road moderate-an approach I know firsthand can sometimes be a lonely one. Our state has benefited from Jo Ann's public service, and I wish her the best, and look forward to continuing our work together for Missouri."

The following is a first-person statement by Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D) Missouri regarding Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson's announcement that she will retire in February of 2013.

"Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson has represented Southeast Missouri with honor and integrity. Jo Ann has always been a voice of calm, reason and common sense. She is a skilled legislator, a wonderful colleague, and a great friend of mine. Congresswoman Emerson represents the best of Missouri. I will miss her wise voice as Democrats and Republicans seek common ground to move the nation forward."

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