KANSAS CITY — Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's jaw-dropping gaffe about rape and pregnancy, and his subsequent loss to incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, ranks as Missouri's top story of 2012, according to a survey of Associated Press member newspaper editors and broadcast news directors.
Akin's ranking was no small feat in a year in which his headlines received competition from drought, Missouri's continued opposition to health care reform, a record lottery winner and more fallout from the failed Mamtek sweetener facility project in Moberly.
Akin told a St. Louis television interviewer in August that women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in what he called "legitimate rape." He later began apologizing repeatedly, but he refused calls from leading Republicans to drop out of the race so that the Missouri GOP could field a replacement candidate.
The remarks triggered so much reaction — outrage from women's groups and what-was-he-thinking confusion from Akin's Republican brethren — that most of the other races on Missouri's crowded election ballot received scant attention. Reporters staked out Akin to see if he would bow to pressure and leave the race. And once it was clear he was in for good, did he stand a chance?
In the end, McCaskill won a second term by soundly defeating Akin 55 percent to 39 percent.
Coming in second for the year's top stories was the deep and widespread drought, which plagued crops and led Gov. Jay Nixon to offer enhanced state grants to farmers needing to drill new wells.
But perhaps the drought's most significant effects weren't noticed until late in the year, when months of drought combined with a bureaucratic decision to slow the flow of water on the Missouri River lowered the Mississippi River to dangerously low levels. Water is so low from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill., that barge traffic could be halted, choking the flow of goods up and down the river and creating what some say could be an economic catastrophe.
The state's no. 3 story in 2012 was Missouri's persistent opposition to President Barack Obama's health care law. Voters passed an initiative preventing the governor from setting up a state-run health insurance exchange, and Republican legislative leaders vowed to oppose Nixon's proposal to expand Medicaid coverage as called for by the federal law.
The rest of the top 10:
- 4. Joplin's ongoing recovery from the deadly May 2011 tornado continued to impress and generate headlines. The city was buoyed by a visit from President Obama for the deadly twister's one-year anniversary.
Obama delivered a high school commencement address a day before the anniversary of the twister that killed 161 people. Declaring that they had "already defied the odds," he urged the graduating seniors of Joplin High School to hold close the lessons they learned in overcoming adversity as they enter the next phase of their lives.
"You are from Joplin. And you are from America," Obama said. "You will not be defined by the difficulties you face, but how you respond — with strength, and grace, and a commitment to others."
- 5. Republicans won veto-proof majorities in both the Missouri House and Senate for the first time since the Civil War era while Democratic Gov. Nixon and other incumbent executives also won re-election.
- 6. Kansas City Chiefs starting linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend before driving to Arrowhead Stadium and committing suicide in front of team officials. Belcher's actions orphaned the couple's 3-month-old daughter, and later reports showed Belcher had been feuding with his girlfriend and complaining about her to another woman.
- 7. A bronze bust of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh was added to the Missouri Capitol's Hall of Famous Missourians despite protests, mainly from women's groups. A security camera was installed to keep watch over the bust.
- 8. Missouri lawmakers overrode a veto by Nixon to enact a new religious exemption from insurance coverage of birth control.
- 9. Bruce Cole, the CEO of the failed Mamtek artificial sweetener factory in Moberly, was charged with theft and security fraud for allegedly misleading financiers about the company's troubled operations and diverting revenue from city-backed bonds to make payments on his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.
- 10. Cindy and Mark Hill, high school sweethearts from the northwest Missouri town of Dearborn, became one of two winners of the record $588 million Powerball jackpot. The couple vowed the money wouldn't change things too much.
"We will still be going down to the corner cafe for breakfast or fish day. I can guarantee you," Cindy Hill said. "You know it's just us. We're just normal human beings. We're as common as anybody. We just have a little bit more money."