Retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former intelligence officer Blaine Lotz announced his run for South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District on Monday with a series of speeches that will culminate on Hilton Head Island today.
In an interview Friday before his kick-off, Lotz said Republican incumbent Joe Wilson, 60, is too closely aligned with the Bush administration on the war in Iraq and on economic issues.
Lotz, 64, a Democrat, specifically blamed Bush and a Republican Congress for profligate spending, which he said that, along with a dependence on foreign oil and the war effort, has contributed to the country's economic downturn.
"This administration and Joe Wilson never met a spending project that they didn't like during the first four years of the Bush administration," Lotz said, "and now all of a sudden, they've gotten religion about the economy and spending."
A spokesman for the congressman said Wilson recently voted for a Republican budget that would put a one-year moratorium on earmarks, which are special projects tacked onto legislation, and would balance the budget in four years.
Lotz, a Vietnam veteran, also differs with Wilson on his position on Iraq. While serving as assistant to the secretary of defense for intelligence oversight, Lotz said he had to remain apolitical despite his objections to the war -- "you salute smartly and press on." But as a candidate, he is calling for an honorable end to U.S. combat in Iraq.
Wilson, who toured Iraq earlier this month and has a son serving there, has consistently supported the war and the troop surge.
In addition to Lotz, Wilson has two other challengers -- Republican Phil Black, 63, a Lexington County developer, and Democrat Rob Miller, 33, a former Marine captain who served in Iraq and lives on Lady's Island. All three candidates criticized Wilson's staunch support for favoring leaving combat troops in Iraq indefinitely and for Congress' fiscal irresponsibility and inability to pass immigration reform.
Black will be Wilson's first primary challenger since he won the seat in a 2001 special election. In 2004 and 2006, he won with 65 percent and then 63 percent of the vote.
David Wasserman, an editor at the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter that tracks federal elections, said the seat would be a hard win for Democrats. The district stretches from Columbia to Hilton Head Island.
"It's a very heavily Republican district," Wasserman said. "It isn't the most Republican district in South Carolina, but it's close to it, and that presents a real uphill fight for Democrats."