Retired Air Force colonel and commercial airline pilot Robert Burton is rolling out his campaign this week for the 1st Congressional District seat currently held by GOP Rep. Henry Brown. The Mt. Pleasant Democrat made his announcement after wrapping up an active-duty deployment in Florida as chief of combat operations for North America.
Robert Dobbs and Dick Withington, both from the Myrtle Beach area, have said they'll run in the Democratic Primary June 8. Before Brown meets any of these men in November, he'll have to overcome a primary challenge. Carroll Campbell III has promised a tough fight for the GOP nomination.
Brown is a hot target because of a narrow win against Democrat Linda Ketner in the 2008 election, with Ketner winning Charleston County, but losing in regions up the coast. Vehement Obama supporters could choose to sit out the midterm election, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee may provide resources in a district they see as competitive.
Burton tells the City Paper he's focused on getting something done.
"Problem solving hasn't been a priority in Washington," Burton says. "Fifty percent of the job is writing the laws, fixing the problems we have in this country."
Those problems include the dwindling fiscal resources for public programs. Burton is calling for a commission to address the long-term solvency of Social Security. He'd limit congressional input to an up-or-down vote on the proposed solution.
"It gives cowardly congressmen the cover to get something done," he says.
Healthcare is an important issue, but Burton is anxious for Congress to move past the rhetoric and on to other pressing issues.
"There are so many important decisions waiting because of this debate," he says. "The war in Afghanistan has been smoldering because we've been waiting on healthcare."
A swift exit from Afghanistan is not in the cards, Burton says.
"This war is going to go on as long as it takes," he says. "Until the Afghan government can effectively manage its borders and keep Taliban groups from forming and endangering Americans."
American forces are still in Korea and Europe as a permanent line of defense. "Do not expect to win this thing in eight years," Burton says.
A veteran of the first Gulf War and the ongoing conflict, Burton says any future resolution authorizing war should include a provision that lays out how it will be paid for. Congressional members may be more skeptical to send troops off to battle if voters have a bill in their hands showing the tax increases necessary to pay for the combat.
"The average American has no buy-in to the war. He feels no pain," Burton says. "He didn't have to give up flour or sugar or ration his fuel like he did in World War II."
Burton also supports the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the military ban on gays and lesbians serving openly.
"Nobody cares as long as they do their job," he says.
The economy will continue to be a priority for the next Congress. Burton is concerned about some employee stock plans where tax benefits are available after only a year. This practice encourages high-level employees to manipulate short-term earnings, while encouraging other workers to focus on the bottom line rather than the long-term growth of the company. He'd also call for a reduction in the business tax rate, now at 35 percent, to discourage off-shore safe havens and other shenanigans.
Previous bailouts were necessary to save the economy, but Burton says the time for TARPs is over.
"I think we've done enough propping up of unprofitable companies," he says.
Burton would make it a priority to slow federal spending by finding common sense cuts. One example was a recent $4 billion earmark for military plane engines the Defense Department didn't need or want.
He'd also reframe the requirements regarding organ donation, making donation the default, with an opt-out option.
Like Campbell, Burton questions Henry Brown's value in Congress.
"For the past 10 to 12 years, we haven't been getting our money's worth," Burton says.
But he'll limit his time in Washington to eight years.
"I have things burning in my heart that I want to do," he says. "I want to go up there and do them, and then I want to come back and fly airplanes."