WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As Christmas approached last month, Mark Otto says he had no plans to enter North Carolina's political races. Otto was politically active since moving to the state ten years ago from New Jersey. He served as the Republican Party Chairman in the Second Congressional District, and worked to help Renee Ellmers defeat Bob Etheridge for the NC2 seat in 2010. In 2014, after being re-districted into the Seventh Congressional District, Otto volunteered for another GOP candidate who would go on to win, David Rouzer. But it was a vote Rouzer cast near the end of last year that energized Otto into starting his own campaign.
"It wasn't until December 18th, when Congressman Rouzer voted for the Omnibus Bill that contained so many things conservatives are opposed to," Otto says about the reason he's opposing the incumbent in the GOP primary. "I kind of stewed about it all afternoon. First I was in disbelief. I checked several different sources to make sure it was a vote he actually cast, and when I found out he really did, I just felt betrayed."
According to voting records, 95 Republicans in the House opposed the $1.1 trillion bill that funds the federal government through 2016. Otto has sharply criticized Rouzer's vote for the bill, which also restored funding for Planned Parenthood. That is the point cited in many of the news releases Otto sends to media across the state. But, Otto says he is running more than just a one-issue campaign.
"I think that one of the big issues that encompasses everything is the way our elected officials say one thing, and promise to do one thing, but then they get to Washington and become something else entirely," Otto said. "Look, it's not just David Rouzer that does that. A Lot of people, especially those who come up through the political establishment like he has, I think they get so caught up in it that they think they are supposed to play by a certain set of rules that are set by the party leadership and the political apparatus. I don't believe it should be that way."
While Otto admits that compromise can play a part in some political discussions in Washington, DC, he draws the line at what calls the core values many conservatives hold dear. On his campaign website (www.standwithme.us) Otto lays out several issues he will not support, and promises to vote 'no' if they are contained in any piece of legislation. Included in that list are bills that would include funding for Planned Parenthood, sanctuary cities or Obamacare. He also opposes funding for programs "allowing illegal immigrants or Muslim refugees from terrorist states to be resettled into our communities". Another promise he makes is to never vote for a bill or continuing resolution that raises the national debt.
"This debt is spiraling out of control, and I blame Republicans and Democrats both," Otto said. "We can't have a Republican-controlled House, and a Republican-controlled Senate, and blame it exclusively on President Obama. They are both to blame. They all approved it. They are all spending money we don't have, and we just can't keep going down that line."