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Missouri Farm Bureau re-endorses Akin

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 11, 2012 - The Missouri Farm Bureau has announced that it is reaffirming its support for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin, after “revisiting” its endorsement in the wake of his recent comment that “legitimate rape” victims generally don’t get pregnant.

The bureau said in a statement that the “Missouri Farm Bureau FARM-PAC trustees” had voted to stick with Akin, who has been under pressure from national Republican leaders and groups to withdraw ever since the Aug. 19 TV broadcast of his interview with KTVI reporter Charles Jaco.

Akin made his rape comment as he explained why he supports no exceptions to allow abortion in case of rape.

Last week, the Farm Bureau said it was re-evaluating its endorsement because of requests from some county leaders. However, the bureau's PAC has never endorsed a Democrat running for statewide office.

“In telephone conference calls conducted September 5 through 11, FARM-PAC trustees representing 104 counties participated and voted to support Congressman Akin with results similar to the August 10th endorsement,” the bureau said in a statement issued Tuesday. “A two-thirds vote is needed for a FARM-PAC endorsement.”

“During the conference calls, some of our members brought up the statement made by Congressman Akin last month; however, they accepted his apology and reaffirmed this election is still about issues such as moving our country in a better direction, getting the federal deficit under control, eliminating needless government regulations and creating more jobs,” said Blake Hurst, president of Missouri Farm Bureau.

“Our FARM-PAC trustees take our endorsements very seriously, and I am proud of their efforts. Even though reconsideration of an endorsement is unprecedented for us, we have maintained a process that is fair, thorough and at the grassroots of rural Missouri,” said Hurst.

Akin also had raised some rural eyebrows, even before the rape comment, over his comments at the Missouri State Fair in opposition to the federal school-lunch program. The program includes farm commodities that are purchased by the federal government, then given to schools.

The FARM-PAC trustees may have been influenced by the strong support shown for Akin in the  Missouri State Fair Straw Poll, where he received 73% of the vote. The straw poll is not scientific and people can vote more than once.

Hurst called the straw poll “a fun activity that Missouri Farm Bureau conducts each election year, and while not scientific, the straw poll in its 32-year history has accurately predicted who rural Missouri voters will support in November.”

Here’s the breakdown, by percentage, of the poll’s 6,290 ballots cast by fairgoers:

U.S. President: Republican Mitt Romney - 76%; Democrat Obama - 24%

U.S. Senator: Akin - 73%; McCaskill - 27%

Missouri Governor: Republican Dave Spence - 58%; Democrat Jay Nixon – 42%

(Start of update) Akin spokesman Ryan Hite said the congressman is thrilled by the news. "We are very excited and very grateful to have that reaffirming vote,'' Hite said.

The Farm Bureau's leaders "will help introduce the congressman to members,'' with the bureau providing a network that can help him to better connect with rural voters, Hite said.  He added that the re-endorsement shows that Farm Bureau members are "unsatisfied with (McCaskill's) performance in the Senate."

It's unclear how much financial aid the bureau can provide to Akin, who has seen independent GOP groups drop plans to spend millions of dollars on ads attacking McCaskill.

McCaskill campaign spokesman Erik Dorey replied, "As a daughter of rural Missouri, Claire has been a strong, independent voice for Missouri's farmers and agricultural communities. Claire's proud of her record on behalf of Missouri's farmers and she'll continue working across the aisle to pass a long-term Farm Bill, which Todd Akin opposes, that will provide long-term stability and some much-needed certainty to our farmers in this generational drought."

(End of update)

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.