Akin opens Senate campaign with nine-city tour of Missouri

Thursday, May 19, 2011
U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., gets a hug from two of his daughters after announcing Tuesday his candidacy for U.S. Senate in Creve Coeur, Mo. (Jeff Roberson ~ Associated Press)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Republican congressman Todd Akin is making a three-day trip to nine Missouri cities to talk about his bid for U.S. Senate next year.

Akin has represented a U.S. House district in suburban St. Louis for the past decade. He announced Tuesday he'll seek the GOP nomination next year to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Akin appeared Wednesday morning in Cape Girardeau and was scheduled to appear in Springfield and Joplin. Today he visits Kansas City and St. Joseph. The trip ends Friday with stops in Columbia, Kirksville, Hannibal and St. Charles.

Former state treasurer Sarah Steelman is the only other Republican in the Senate race so far, although St. Louis businessman John Brunner also is considering a run.

Steelman criticized Akin in an email sent to supporters Wednesday. Akin voted last month for legislation cutting a record $38 billion in federal spending. But Steelman called the measure a "weak-kneed budget compromise" between House Republicans and Democratic President Barack Obama and said she would have held out for the full $100 billion in cuts originally sought by some Republicans.

"Akin's failure to do so showed the House Republicans to be toothless dragons as we battle over the debt limit," Steelman said.

Akin is chairman of the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. He said the budget bill was vital for funding for the Department of Defense, which he said had been unable to initiate orders for new aircraft and ships or make certain personnel changes under the series of continuing budget resolutions that had been passed since last October. While making cuts to domestic spending, the legislation passed last month also funds the Department of Defense for the remainder of the federal fiscal year.

"We're supposed to provide for the common defense," Akin said, citing the Constitution, "and that was being hampered."

Akin added: "Most people who voted against it, I don't think fully understand the implications from a defense point of view."

Steelman denied any lack of understanding on the issue. In an email, she suggested that the Defense Department funding could have been separated from the legislation that contained cuts and continued funding for other aspects of the federal government.

Akin, 63, is a married father of six who formerly was a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer. He has worked in corporate management, served in the Missouri House and has represented a suburban St. Louis congressional district for the past 10 years.

Missouri's U.S. Senate seat is one of the top targets for Republicans hoping to regain a Senate majority in the 2012 elections. That's partly because Missouri is a traditional swing state, but also because Republicans view McCaskill -- who is seeking re-election to a second term -- as politically vulnerable. Earlier this year, she reimbursed the federal treasury $88,000 for taxpayer funded travel on an airplane in which she and her husband have an ownership stake. She later paid St. Louis County about $320,000 in back property taxes, interest and penalties related to the plane.

But McCaskill also has several strengths against her Republican rivals. She has cultivated an independent streak from some Democrats on certain issues, including in her staunch opposition to spending earmarks. She has deep-rooted name recognition from statewide campaigns for Senate, governor and state auditor during the past two decades. She has demonstrated an ability to appeal both to urban and rural voters. And McCaskill had more than $1.9 million in her campaign account as of the end of March -- more than double the $910,000 Akin had and far outpacing the roughly $194,000 reported by Steelman.

A McCaskill spokesman had no immediate comment about Akin's candidacy, instead referring a question to the Missouri Democratic Party, which highlighted Akin's votes against measures that would have ended tax breaks for oil companies. The party said he has an "extreme record of fighting for special interests."

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