Receives support during Gasconade County Republican Central Committee barbecue
Republican party faithful, some 200 strong, gave 6-term U.S. Congressman Todd Akin a warm reception Saturday evening during a barbecue hosted by the Gasconade County Republican Central Committee at Owensville’s Memorial Park.
Those attending the Sept. 22 event heard his firm pledge to stay in the race for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill despite continued party opposition at the national level and promises to withhold funding from his campaign. Tuesday was the deadline for a candidate to quit the race to allow for a replacement to be named before ballots are printed.
Akin, winner of the Missouri Republican primary for U.S. Senate, was the featured speaker at the event held on the first day of autumn. U.S. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (9th District), Tom Hurst, Republican candidate for the newly created 62nd House District out of Meta, Dave Schatz, the Sullivan Republican for the 61st House District who has served the area as the 111th District representative, and State Sen. Mike Kehoe, currently of the 6th District, also addressed participants at the $10 a plate event.
Akin’s appearance came a day after his participation in a U.S. senatorial candidates’ debate held in Columbia. Boy Scout Troop 22 in Owensville posted the nation’s colors during an opening ceremony.
Despite being pressured by national Republican party leaders to end his campaign following an Aug. 19 television interview which aired his comments about how women who do not become pregnant from “legitimate rape,” Akin pledged to continue his campaign against incumbent U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Kansas City.
He made it official on Tuesday afternoon that he would not be dropping out in a press conference held in St. Louis while announcing plans for his “Common Sense Tour” which continues through Friday. He will be in Rolla this evening for two scheduled events and in the Capitol Rotunda from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Those attending the barbecue Saturday at the park heard his explanation for staying in the race despite the lack of support financially from national Republican sources.
“What I try to do, because I’m the engineer, I’m not very good at politics, is to just try and say what’s the right thing to do,” Akin told those attending the event in Owensville. “And after having given that some thought, my sense was we just had an election. A whole bunch of us ran. A lot of million dollars were spent. And the people of Missouri made a decision. And my thought is, is it right when everybody’s made a vote to allow some people in Washington D.C. to pick whoever their favorite is instead? And I thought that wasn’t the right thing to do. I believe that some of you may have vote for me. And I believe you sent me to do a job, that’s replace Claire McCaskill, and that’s something needs (sic) being done.”
In the weeks since his gaffe about “legitimate rape,” Akin said it’s been “full speed ahead,” on the campaign. “That’s what we’re doing.”
His unintended foray into the public limelight has brought a newfound realization that people do recognized him more frequently, he noted.
“I can report to you today how things are going. And, it’s been very exciting. It’s been a little of a unique experience for me and that is, no matter where I go, people start to recognize you,” Akin said.
Akin received a big laugh when he told a story about meeting three women in “one of those (motel) elevators,” including a staff cleaning lady.
“One of them says, they’re elbowing each other,” Akin recalled, “you’re the one that said something wrong.”
Akin said he introduced himself to them.
Akin said one of the women said, “well we’re supporting you, we understood that you said you’re sorry and we want you to go fight, and win, and we don’t want any of those party bosses telling us what to do.”
The partisan crowd of nearly 200 gave him a hearty round of applause. County Republican party officials reported 175 paid for a meal at the event.
He pointed out his biography as an IBM engineer and family’s military service — past and present — including his as an Army officer, his father’s service in WWII under General George Patton, and three sons who went through the Naval academy and ended up in the Marines. One is currently deployed to the Mediterranean.
Two of his six children joined him at the event. His wife of 37 years, Lulli, did not attend.
“As you can imagine, I’m very, very thankful to be American, thankful my kids got the chance to grow up (here),” he added before introducing a son and daughter.
He received another good round of laughter when he reported on his debate Friday with McCaskill at the Missouri Press Association’s forum in Columbia (see State Side on page 12 for coverage and photographs).
“Now in terms of this race against Claire McCaskill, we had our first debate yesterday and I thought she loved me up to this point,” he said. “But it didn’t seem like it yesterday in the debate. So if any of just you want too know, kind of what’s going on in this race, because she’s saying, she’s telling everybody she’s a moderate, and I’m scratching my head. You know it seems to be kind of a gutsy thing to tell everyone you are a moderate when you vote 98 percent of the time with Barrack Obama. Somehow that didn’t seem to square with me. But she also said the Senate passed a budget which also hasn’t happened so there’s all sorts of things going on that you have to keep your eye on.”
Gasconade County voters had favored Akin’s opponent, former State Sen. Sarah Steelman in the August primary as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Steelman collected 1,134 votes in the county to 975 for Akin. John G. Brunner received 859 votes in the county in a race which included eight contestants. McCaskill was unopposed on the Democratic ticket and received 315 votes in the heavily Republican Gasconade County.
Akin, as well as any other candidate, had until Sept. 25 to remove his name from the ballot by court order, which was only three days after military ballots were sent out.
Republicans began to distance themselves from Akin after his controversial comments on rape and abortion, with some calling for Akin to drop out of the race.
This pressure came from top Republicans, such as presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, as well as conservative groups, such as Crossroads GPS and the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, which have pulled advertising support in Missouri for Akin.
Despite widespread pressure from the national party, Akin has received some Republican support from Mike Huckabee and, most recently, former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich was in the St. Louis area on Monday to help raise money for Akin at a $500 a plate dinner.
“Newt understands that Missouri — or should I say that the Republicans — really don’t have a plan to win the majority unless they can actually win Missouri,” Akin campaign adviser Rick Tyler said. Tyler served as Gingrich’s press secretary for 13 years.
Akin and his staff had repeatedly said that he would not withdraw from the race .
“Todd is not going to drop out, he’s never going to drop out, it’s not going to happen,” Tyler said late last week. “The deadline is meaningless to us because Todd has always intended to stay in the race.”
(With reporting from Eric Stoyanov of the MU School of Journalism’s Capitol News Bureau. See The Republican’s video of Akin’s talk Saturday in Owensville and additional photographs from the event on our web site at www.GasconadeCountyRepublican.com).
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