The Sentinel-Record

Former US Rep. Todd Akin, sunk by ‘legitimate rape’ remark, dies at 74

- JOHN HANNA AND JIM SALTER Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas. Salter reported from O’Fallon, Missouri.

Former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a conservati­ve Missouri Republican whose comment that women’s bodies have a way of avoiding pregnancie­s in cases of “legitimate rape” sunk his bid for the U.S. Senate and became a cautionary tale for other GOP candidates, has died. He was 74.

Akin had cancer for several years, his son Perry said in a statement. He died late Sunday at his home in Wildwood, a St. Louis suburb.

“As my father’s death approached, we had people from all different walks of life share story after story of the personal impact he had on them,” Perry Akin said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“He was a devout Christian, a great father, and a friend to many. We cherish many fond memories from him driving the tractor at our annual hayride, to his riveting delivery of the freedom story at 4th of July parties dressed in the full uniform of a colonial minuteman. The family is thankful for his legacy: a man with a servant’s heart who stood for truth.”

Akin represente­d a Republican-leaning eastern Missouri district that included St. Louis-area suburbs for 12 years, giving up a safe seat to run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. He emerged from a crowded GOP primary to challenge then incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, only to seriously hurt Republican­s’ chances of recapturin­g a Senate majority less than two weeks later.

Akin, a strong abortion opponent, was asked during an interview by a St. Louis television station whether he supported allowing abortions for women who have been raped. He answered that “from what I understand from doctors” that such pregnancie­s are “really rare.”

He added: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

His comments sparked an outcry. The Republican presidenti­al candidate, Mitt Romney, immediatel­y rebuked Akin and said his campaign would allow abortions in such cases.

Criticism of Akin’s remarks clouded his U.S. Senate bid until the end, making him a symbol of how Republican­s could fumble away races they had a good chance of winning with a candidate deemed too far to the right. Akin’s campaign initially said he “misspoke,” and Akin later said he was wrong.

Akin faced pressure from the national GOP to withdraw and allow the state party to pick a replacemen­t. He refused and ended up losing the race by nearly 16 percentage points, receiving 39% of the vote. Yet other Republican officials and officehold­ers across the U.S. occasional­ly echoed his remarks — signaling how conservati­ve some of the party’s base had become on the issue.

Two years later, Akin published a book, “Firing Back,” in which he accused GOP leaders of abandoning him and letting McCaskill win and labeling news organizati­ons as bullies. In the book, he also retracted his public apology for his “legitimate rape” remark.

Akin never ran for office again, though early in 2015, he briefly fueled speculatio­n about a 2016 primary challenge to GOP U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt with remarks that tea party Republican­s wanted “new blood.”

Akin was born July 5, 1947, in New York City, but grew up in the St. Louis area. He received a bachelor’s degree in engineerin­g and management from Worcester Polytechni­c Institute in Massachuse­tts in 1970, served in the U.S. Army and worked for IBM. He worked in corporate management at the St. Louis-based Laclede Steel Co.

He won a seat in the Missouri House in 1988 and served in the Legislatur­e for 10 years. He won Missouri’s 2nd Congressio­nal District seat in 2000 and was reelected five times. He also served on the board of the anti-abortion group Missouri Right to Life.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, who has represente­d Missouri’s 2nd District since winning election in 2012, said in a statement that Akin “was a man of great faith and an unwavering conservati­ve. He was deeply devoted to God, his Country, and Family.”

Another Republican congressma­n from eastern Missouri, Blaine Luetkemeye­r, called Akin “a dedicated husband, father, grandfathe­r and public servant, serving the Show-MeState for decades at both the state and federal level.”

In the 2012 U.S. Senate primary, Akin faced two formidable opponents, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and businessma­n John Brunner.

Many Democrats thought McCaskill’s best shot at winning reelection would be with Akin as the GOP nominee. Her campaign aired television ads suggesting Akin was too conservati­ve, Brunner was not a reliable conservati­ve and Steelman represente­d “more politics as usual.”

Republican­s took the ads as McCaskill’s attempt to help Akin win the GOP primary. An autobiogra­phy that McCaskill published in 2015 said she also tried to boost Akin’s campaign by urging it through back channels to resume airing a television ad featuring an endorsemen­t from former conservati­ve GOP presidenti­al candidate and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

McCaskill’s moves paid off. Akin prevailed in the eight-person GOP field with only 36% of the vote.

Funeral informatio­n has not been announced. Survivors include Akin’s wife, Lulli Boe Akin, his mother, Nancy Bigelow Akin, four sons, two daughters and 18 grandchild­ren.

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