Democrats are working to make a Missouri congressman's controversial comment about rape an issue in the heated 7th Congressional District race.
Republican Rep. Todd Akin has come under fire from politicians on both sides of the aisle for saying in a televised interview that a woman's body has the ability to block pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape." He has apologized for the remarks but rejected calls from Republican leaders and politicians, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to drop his U.S. Senate campaign against Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, denounced Akin's comments in a statement posted to his campaign Twitter feed Tuesday.
"As a husband and father, I was deeply disturbed by the recent comments of Todd Akin," he said. "The ideas he expressed are simply incomprehensible."
Lungren's opponent, Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are seeking to make the case that the Republican incumbent shares at least some of Akin's views.
Bera, who has worked as a physician, targeted Lungren's support for legislation aimed at cutting federal funding for abortion.
The measure, which was co-sponsored by Akin, Lungren, 214 other Republican representatives and 11 House Democrats, came under fire from women's groups over language that sought to exclude only "forcible" rape cases in a ban on federal funding for abortions. Critics worried the definition could result in funding restrictions in cases of statutory rape and other kinds of sexual assault.
Bera, in a statement, accused both Akin and Lungren of "injecting politics into the definition of rape" and called on Lungren to withdraw his support of the bill, which cleared the House in 2011.
Lungren consultant Rob Stutzman said Democrats' efforts to draw a connection between Lungren and Akin's "outrageously offensive statement" are misguided.
"Anyone that was in the same dining room in Washington as Todd Akin isn't guilty of anything," he said. "Anyone who worked with him on any legislation in Washington isn't guilty."
A close voter registration split has made the race between Lungren and Bera a top priority for both parties.