Republican Boozman defends votes on military, vets

U.S. Rep. John Boozman, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, is interviewed at his campaign headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. U.S. Rep. John Boozman, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, is interviewed at his campaign headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
By Andrew DeMillo
Associated Press Writer / October 15, 2010

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Republican Senate hopeful John Boozman on Thursday fought back against Sen. Blanche Lincoln's criticism of his military record, calling the Arkansas Democrat's charge that he's voted against veterans' programs a sign that her campaign's become desperate.

Lincoln, who is fighting to save her political career, has targeted Boozman's record on military and veterans issues as a sign that he's not delivering for the state. Boozman, a congressman from northwest Arkansas, sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Lincoln this week accused Boozman of routinely voting against veterans programs, such as educational or spousal benefits.

Boozman accused Lincoln of mischaracterizing his votes and trying to play politics with military and veterans issues.

"I would characterize this as just a desperate act," Boozman told The Associated Press on Thursday before holding a news conference with veterans to denounce Lincoln's claims.

"The thing that irritates me so much is we're trying to politicize our military and our veterans. ... They shouldn't be politicized and they should be supported, and sadly I think the record of the Arkansas delegation really speaks to doing that in the past, in the sense of trying their best to take care," Boozman said.

Boozman and his campaign said Lincoln wasn't offering the entire story on his record. The votes singled out by Lincoln include appropriations that were part of overall budget proposals he opposed and also include a bill he opposed because it included a repeal of the military's ban on openly gay troops, he said.

Patrick Creamer, a spokesman for Boozman's campaign, also said Lincoln was relying in some instances on Boozman's votes against procedural attempts to kill legislation by sending them back to committee. Another bill he opposed was a supplemental appropriations bill that included $1.7 billion for veterans programs but also had a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq and a number of non-emergency measures, Creamer said.

During a speech in Little Rock on Tuesday, Lincoln targeted Boozman's votes.

"If we don't support that and make sure that we vote for the appropriations of the dollars to provide that, they don't get it," she said.

Lincoln's campaign continued pressing the case against Boozman on veterans issues on Thursday. Lincoln campaign manager Steve Patterson said Boozman should apologize for calling Lincoln a liar.

"There is no 'lie' here, congressman," Patterson said in a statement posted on the campaign's blog. "Only a voting record that exposes a career in Congress where you say good things about our military and veterans but when it comes time to improve veterans care or expand benefits, you typically vote 'no.'"