Missouri Republicans on Saturday selected state Rep. Jason Smith to be their nominee in Missouri's upcoming 8th District special election, tapping the young state legislator for a contest the party is expected to win.

Smith, 32, emerged from a crowded field after six rounds of balloting. The state House speaker pro tem defeated Lt Gov. Peter Kinder and state Sen. Jason Crowell in the final round of votes taken by a committee of local Republican officials.

Smith will begin his campaign as the front-runner for the southeastern Missouri seat formerly held by Republican Jo Ann Emerson, who resigned last month to become president and chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The 8th District leans heavily Republican. Democrats have yet to select their nominee for the June 4 election.