State Rep. Jason Smith (R) easily won Missouri's 8th district special election Tuesday, outpacing three other candidates in a heavily conservative district.

With 78 percent of the vote counted, the Associated Press called the race for Smith, who was leading Democratic nominee Steve Hodges 68 percent to 27 percent.

Smith, the Missouri state House speaker pro tem, will become one of the youngest members of Congress. He is 32.

Smith will replace Republican Jo Ann Emerson. Emerson resigned earlier this year to become president and chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The race to replace Emerson was never regarded as competitive by national strategists. Mitt Romney won two in three voters last year in the 8th district, which lies in the southeastern part of the state.