Unlike current Rep. Henry Brown, Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Tim Scott said he is opposed to earmarks.

"The earmark system as we know it is dead from the Republican perspective," he told the Charleston Rotary Club on Tuesday.

"The earmark system leaves us with crumbs while others get the loaves."

Brown and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham have fought for a $400,000 earmark in the current budget that port officials have said is critical to maintain momentum on a plan to deepen the Port of Charleston for larger container ships.

But the allocation isn't in the current budget, a fact that U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint chalked up to Washington politics. DeMint no longer seeks earmarks, and has praised Scott for his "courage to fight the culture of earmarks."

State Ports Authority officials and others have said the earmark is the only way that the Army Corps of Engineers can proceed with planning to deepen the harbor.

If the earmark isn't included this year, Charleston could fall behind competing ports in the Southeast, all of which already have earmarks in the budget for harbor-deepening projects.

Scott joked about how often he's been asked about earmarks, but noted that the House Republican conference has placed a moratorium on them.

He also noted that Oregon has received three times the federal funding for its ports than South Carolina has, though Oregon's ports are much less busy.

Scott's appearance Tuesday before the club also solidified the perception that he is the front-runner in the crowded 1st District field.

His Democratic opponent, perennial candidate Ben Frasier, declined to appear before the club, which did not invite the five other candidates.

Those candidates are Green Party hopeful Robert Dobbs, Libertarian Keith Blandford, Working Families candidate Rob Groce, United Citizens candidate Mac McCullough and Independent Party candidate Jimmy Wood.

The election is Nov. 2.

Scott pledged to limit himself to four terms, if elected.

When club member and former Democratic 1st District candidate Andy Brack asked Scott if he would run for the U.S. Senate after that, Scott replied, "I might run home."