Former US MP Todd Akin, a Conservative Republican from Missouri, who commented that women’s bodies have a way of preventing pregnancy from “legitimate rape.” scuttled his bid for the US Senate and became a warning to other GOP candidates, died late Sunday. He was 74.
Akin had cancer for several years, his son Perry said in a statement. He died at his home in Wildwood, a suburb of St. Louis.
“As my father’s death drew near, people from all walks of life told us stories 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 have fond memories of him driving the tractor on our annual hay ride, to his captivating portrayal of the story of freedom at parties on July 4th dressed in the full uniform of a colonial minuteman. The family is grateful for his legacy: a man with the heart of a servant who stood up for the truth. “
Akin represented a Republican borough in eastern Missouri that spanned suburbs in the St. Louis area for 12 years, and gave up a secure seat in 2012 to run for the US Senate. It emerged from a crowded GOP primary to challenge then-incumbent Democratic senior US Democrat Claire McCaskill, only to seriously affect Republicans’ chances of recapturing a Senate majority less than two weeks later.
Akin, a strong opponent of abortion, was asked about it an interview with a television station in St. Louis whether he supported the approval of abortions for raped women. He replied that “from what I understand from doctors,” such pregnancies are “really rare”.
He added, “If the rape is legitimate, the female body has ways of trying to turn the whole thing off.”
His comments sparked an outcry. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney immediately reprimanded Akin, saying his campaign would allow abortions in such cases.
Criticism of Akin’s remarks clouded his Senate bid to the end and made him a symbol of how Republicans could fumble away high-chance races with a candidate too far to the right. Akin’s campaign initially said he was “wrong” and Akin later said he was wrong.
Akin faced pressure from the national GOP to withdraw and allow the state party to select a replacement. He refused and lost the race by almost 16 percentage points and received 39% of the vote. But other Republican officials in the United States occasionally repeated his remarks – and signaled how conservative some of the party base had become on the issue.
Two years later, Akin published a book called “Firing Back,” in which he accused GOP leaders of abandoning him and letting McCaskill win and calling news organizations a tyrant. In the book, he also withdrew his public apology for his comment on “legitimate rape”.
Akin never ran for office again, despite briefly fueling speculation in early 2015 about a key challenge facing GOP US Senator Roy Blunt in 2016 by noting that the Tea Party Republicans wanted “new blood.”
Akin was born in New York City on July 5, 1947, 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 US Army and worked for IBM. He worked in corporate management at the St. Louis-based Laclede Steel Co.
He won a seat at Missouri House in 1988 and served in the legislature for 10 years. In 2000, he won the second seat in the Missouri Congressional District and was re-elected five times. He was also on the board of directors of the anti-abortion group Missouri Right to Life.
In the 2012 Senate primary, Akin faced two formidable opponents, former state treasurer Sarah Steelman and businessman John Brunner.
Many Democrats thought McCaskill’s best chance for re-election with Akin as the GOP nominee would be. Her campaign aired television commercials suggesting that Akin was too conservative, Brunner was not a reliable conservative, and Steelman represented “more politics than usual.”
Republicans took the ads as McCaskill’s attempt to help Akin win the GOP primary. An autobiography McCaskill published in 2015 said she had also tried to kickstart Akin’s campaign by urging her on baking channels to re-air a television commercial that included support from former Conservative GOP presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
McCaskill’s steps have paid off. Akin prevailed in the eight-member GOP field with only 36% of the vote.
Funeral information was not disclosed. Survivors include Akin’s wife, Lulli Boe Akin, his mother, Nancy Bigelow Akin, four sons, two daughters, and 18 grandchildren.