Greenville -- U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, facing an uphill battle against Spartanburg prosecutor Trey Gowdy in the Republican runoff for the 4th Congressional District, accused Gowdy on Wednesday of dodging controversial issues, but the Gowdy campaign said Inglis was just repeating an earlier rant.
Meanwhile, two other Republicans who together claimed 27 percent of the vote in the primary that Gowdy led Tuesday said they wouldn't endorse either Inglis or Gowdy in the June 22 runoff.
Mauldin businessman Jim Lee, a tea party activist who rose from political obscurity to claim 14 percent of the vote in the five-way primary, said he decided against making an endorsement after getting overtures Wednesday from Inglis and Gowdy.
"I got into this 15 months ago and didn't find anyone else who I could throw my support behind, and that's why I ran," Lee said.
"Today, 15 months later, I find myself in the same position, and I will leave it up to the voters of the 4th Congressional District to make up their minds and let the primary process play its way out."
State Sen. David Thomas of Fountain Inn, who took 13 percent of the primary vote, also said he wouldn't make an endorsement, and said Inglis should withdraw.
Thomas said the conservatives who voted for him "have a problem with Bob" and are likely to vote for Gowdy in the runoff.
Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint said he had no plans to make an endorsement in the 4th District contest or the gubernatorial runoff between state Rep. Nikki Haley and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett.
DeMint is a longtime political ally of Inglis and replaced him in the 4th District seat after Inglis left it in 1998 to honor a term-limits pledge and to run unsuccessfully against former Democratic U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings.
Inglis lost the race to Hollings, but he reclaimed the 4th District seat in 2004.
Gowdy, 7th Circuit solicitor since 2001, claimed 39 percent of the vote Tuesday, but it wasn't enough to avoid a runoff with Inglis, who got 28 percent. A fifth candidate, Spartanburg professor Christina Jeffrey, collected 7 percent.
Inglis came out swinging on Wednesday, calling for more debates and declaring that Gowdy was trying to avoid taking positions on malpractice reform and whether he would have voted to make $700 billion available to prop up the U.S. financial system.
Inglis, like other incumbents this year, has taken fire for voting in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008.
"Trey Gowdy is a capable trial lawyer, but whether he actually believes what he's saying is quite the question," Inglis said.
In response, Gowdy spokesman Dan Hoover said Inglis was regurgitating a rant he made in front of television cameras after returns came in Tuesday night and there are sure to be more debates and forums on top of the nearly 15 that already have occurred.
Rick Beltram, former chairman of the Spartanburg County Republican Party, said Inglis, a six-term incumbent from Greenville, should try to exploit the rivalry between Greenville County, which was responsible for 62 percent of Tuesday's vote, and Spartanburg County, which accounted for 36 percent.
Beltram said he's lived in Spartanburg two decades and "I can tell you the competition between the two counties is as strong as it was 20 years ago."
Gowdy, who claimed more than 60 percent of the Spartanburg vote, is "well aware that Greenville is the dominant vote in this whole election process," Beltram said.
Greenville public affairs consultant Chip Felkel said Inglis should try to persuade voters to vote against Gowdy if he can't get them to vote for himself.
That means continuing to raise doubts about whether Gowdy is a true conservative, he said.