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Emerson Resignation, Akin Comments Headline The Year In SEMO Politics

U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson
U.S. House of Representatives

Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson’s sudden resignation and Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments were the top political stories in southeast Missouri in 2012.

Emerson, a Republican, has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1996 and won re-election handily every two years. Emerson is the longest-serving member of Missouri’s Congressional delegation and was often considered a moderate voice among a sea of partisanship. 

On December 3, 2012 Emerson announced she would leave office in February 2013 to take a job as president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Emerson later announced she would consider moving her resignation date earlier to allow give Governor Jay Nixon enough time to call a special election in April.

The timing of Emerson’s resignation came as a surprise because she had just won re-election a month a month earlier. Her resignation led to massive speculation about who would take her place. The Republican and Democratic parties will choose their nominees to run in the special election in the conservative district. Possible Republican names include Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, Missouri GOP executive director Lloyd Smith and former Treasurer Sarah Steelman, as well as a slew of southeast Missouri legislators.

Earlier in the year, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill was largely considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats. During the GOP’s primary, Todd Akin, John Brummer and Steelman vied to take on McCaskill. Akin won the primary. Polls showed Akin with a lead over McCaskill, but his advantage dissipated when asked about abortions for rape victims. Akin claimed women who are the victims of “legitimate rape” have a way “to shut that whole thing down” and avoid pregnancy. His comments were widely criticized, and his Senate race crumbled. McCaskill cruised to re-election.

What were some of the other top political stories of the year? We hastily made a list, in no particular order, of some of 2012 biggest news items. We may have missed some ... or given too much importance to others. We included some very local Cape Girardeau stories as well. Let us know what you think.

  • Jo Ann Emerson’s retirement
  • Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments
  • Claire McCaskill’s re-election
  • Republicans win veto-proof majority in state House and Senate
  • Redistricting
  • Governor Jay Nixon supports Medicaid expansion
  • “Don’t Say Gay” bill
  • Kathy Swan goes to Missouri House, leaves Cape Girardeau city council
  • Cape Girardeau tackles urban deer hunting