Updated to include comments from Republican John Koster, candidate in Washington’s 1st Congressional District contest.
Several prominent Washington state Republicans Monday joined a growing chorus calling on U.S. Rep Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race.
Akin, a veteran conservative congressman challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, is under fire for comments he made Sunday about rape and abortion. Asked whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape, Akin said pregnancy is unlikely — the body somehow prevents the pregnancy — in cases of “legitimate rape.”
He has since repeatedly apologized, saying he was misinformed and misspoke. Despite blistering criticism, he has insisted he is staying in the race.
On Monday, Washington state’s top-ranking Republican questioned that decision.
“Rep. Akin’s remarks are both deeply offensive and ignorant,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is moderate on abortion and running for governor. “He should give the people of Missouri a real choice for the U.S. Senate this November by withdrawing from the race, and allowing a replacement on the ballot.”
Kirby Wilbur, the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, was equally blunt.
“Kirby believes Akin’s statement was ridiculous, insulting, and reprehensible and that Akin should step aside and let someone else run,” said Meredith Kenny, party spokeswoman.
The criticism was just as fierce from Republicans who, like Akin, oppose abortion in cases of rape.
Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, who is running for Congress in the 1st district, called Akin’s language about “legitimate” rape “reprehensible and bizarre.”
“I can’t believe anybody would actually say that,” said Koster, who agreed Akin should step down.
He added that he wanted it to be known that “not all pro-life people are crazy.”
Meanwhile, the state party’s 2012 Senate nominee, Michael Baumgartner, released a statement calling Akin’s comments “inexcusable.”
“I completely disagree with Mr. Akin’s ignorant remarks regarding the links between pregnancy and rape,” Baumgartner said in the statement. “To belittle the trauma rape victims go through is extremely offensive, and I am horrified that he would show such little empathy.”
In a follow-up email, Baumgartner spokeswoman Jami Herring clarified that the candidate “is not issuing a call for him to step aside, but would support finding an alternative candidate.”
Baumgarter is pro-life and has also publicly spoken against abortion in cases of rape. He is challenging Maria Cantwell in a race that is not expected to be close.
Before this incident, McCaskill was considered among the most vulnerable Democratic senators in the country.
Republicans are hoping to take back the Senate this fall.