Republican Congressional candidate Jason Smith, of Salem, appears to be leading his Democratic opponent Steve Hodges, of East Prairie, as fundraising efforts for their campaigns have gotten underway.

Smith and Hodges are vying to become the next U.S. Congressional representative for Missouri’s Eighth District, which takes in Phelps County and all or parts of 29 other counties in south central and southeast Missouri.

Former Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, who held the seat since 1996, resigned Jan. 22 to become head of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Gov. Jay Nixon called a special election to be held June 4 to fill the currently vacant Eighth District seat.

According to press releases issued Monday from both candidates’ campaigns, Smith reported $308,000 raised in the first 49 days of his campaign for Congress, and Hodges announced that he will begin his campaign with more than $115,000 in the bank after bringing in $121,000 during the last 20 days of March.

It was noted that nearly $98,000 of the total raised for Hodges came from more than 250 individual donors. Smith has received contributions from each of the district’s 30 counties since being nominated as the Republican candidate in February.

“I am humbled by the support of the people of the Eighth Congressional District,” said Smith. “People are excited about the opportunity to send Missouri common sense to Washington.

“We have wide and deep support across the district,” said Smith. “I am going to continue to work and earn their votes each and every day through Election Day.”

Smith is the current speaker pro tem of the Missouri House of Representatives and is a seventh generation resident of the district and a fourth generation owner of his family’s south central Missouri farm.

Hodges represents New Madrid County and parts of Mississippi, Pemiscot and Scott counties in the Missouri House. Hodges owned and operated a Bootheel grocery store for 30 years in East Prairie.

“As a former Bootheel grocery store owner, Steve knows that it takes hard work and a smart fiscal conservative approach to be successful,” said Jake Breymaier, who is the Hodges for Congress campaign manager. “That’s why Hodges has applied those principles while working closely with Governor Nixon to balance the state’s budget without raising taxes. He is going to take that experience with him to Washington and our supporters recognize that.”

Breymaier describes Hodges as a conservative Democratic candidate.

“Our supporters know that Steve is the only candidate with the conservative fiscal and management experience to fix the mess created by Washington politicians. Our fundraising numbers and continued momentum reflect that conviction,” said Breymaier.

Also running for the Congressional seat in the June election are Libertarian candidate Bill Slantz, of St. Charles, and Constitution Party candidate Doug Enyart, of Piedmont.