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Rep. Hunter to make presidential bid

October 31, 2006|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, announced plans Monday to make a longshot bid for his party's 2008 nomination for president.

Hunter said his campaign would feature the two issues that are his trademarks: support for the U.S. military and opposition to illegal immigration.

While other Republicans may be edging away from President Bush over the war in Iraq, Hunter praised the president for his leadership of the U.S. military missions there and in Afghanistan. Hunter's son, Duncan Duane Hunter, has served two tours in Iraq as a Marine officer.

"We are going to carry our message of a strong national defense and strong national borders" to voters, Hunter said at a news conference at the same waterfront site where he announced his first bid for Congress in 1980.

In that race, Hunter upset a longtime Democratic incumbent, helped by the Ronald Reagan presidential landslide. He has not faced a close race since.

"It's going to be a long road, there's lots of rough and tumble, but I think it's the right thing to do for our country," Hunter said of his presidential bid.

Hunter expressed confidence that he will be reelected by the 52nd District and that the GOP will retain control of Congress. Under congressional rules, he could only serve as chairman of the Armed Services Committee for two more years.

Hunter, 58, served in the Army in Vietnam and later went to law school in San Diego. He was a plaintiff's attorney before entering politics.

He is a hard-liner on illegal immigration and sponsored a bill signed by Bush to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also led a move to have the city land beneath the Mt. Soledad cross in San Diego transferred to the federal government so that the symbol could remain.

Hunter's main congressional opponent, Navy veteran John Rinaldi, a Democrat, was on the fringes of the news conference crowd. He called Hunter's announcement a stunt to draw attention away from serious issues.

"He has about as much chance of being president as I do of becoming Miss America," Rinaldi said.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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