Air Force reservist announces challenge to Rep. Doolittle |

Air Force reservist announces challenge to Rep. Doolittle

SACRAMENTO (AP) ” An Air Force reservist who has never previously sought political office announced his candidacy against GOP Rep. John Doolittle, the nine-term incumbent under investigation in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal..

Eric Egland, 37, a former Doolittle supporter, said he will provide ethical leadership and firsthand experience in national security issues, and has strong interest in local issues.

“Change is needed, here and in Washington,” Egland, a security consultant who started a veterans support group, said in a statement.

Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes, who lost to Doolittle in last year’s Republican primary, has said he is considering a rematch, but Egland is the first to formally declare his candidacy. He plans to file with the Federal Election Commission this week.

Doolittle consultant Richard Temple said the Rocklin congressman retains a strong base of support and multiple contenders will only divide those voters who don’t support him.

“In this case, the more candidates the better,” said Temple. “Neither of them can beat him.”

Questions about Doolittle’s ties to Abramoff, who is in jail and cooperating with prosecutors, cost Doolittle support in last year’s election as he beat Democrat Charlie Brown with just 49 percent of the vote. Brown plans to run again.

Pressure on Doolittle has increased since the FBI raided his Virginia home in April looking for information on his wife’s bookkeeping business, which had done work for Abramoff.

The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm of the House GOP, told reporters on a conference call Monday that he was confident Doolittle’s seat would stay in Republican hands.

“It’s probably the most Republican seat in California, so we will wait and see how the situation with John resolves itself,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. “I think he will make his decision accordingly, and so will the people there.”

“But it sure would be helpful to him and to us if a 3-year-old investigation was brought to a conclusion one way or the other,” Cole said.

Apart from Egland and Holmes, other local Republicans have indicated they might jump into the race if Doolittle decides not to run for re-election. Doolittle, who denies any wrongdoing, says he plans to run again.

On a conference call last week Doolittle said that there are projects in his district ” including the Folsom bridge and the American River pumping station near Auburn ” that he wants to see through to completion.

“I want to ensure that they’ll actually happen,” Doolittle said. “I’ve been an effective representative for the district but some people place no value on that ” they think it would be a fun sport to bring John Doolittle down.”

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