WASHINGTON -- David Duke announced today he will run for the Republican presidential nomination next year in most states, including Maryland.
The former Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi leader criticized President Bush and predicted immigration would be the "big issue" in the campaign.
"We've got to begin to protect our borders," Duke said. "We've got to begin to protect our Christian values."
Duke, a Louisiana state legislator, also emphasized the themes -- criticism of welfare and affirmative action hiring programs -- he used when he ran unsuccessfully for governor this year and for U.S. Senate last year.
He said America should insist on "fair trade" with Japan and European nations.
The U.S. should tell Japan, he said in a mocking imitation of a Japanese speaking English, "You no buy our rice, we no buy your cars."
While Duke spoke inside the National Press Building, protesters demonstrated outside. One got close enough to the press conference to be heard shouting "Nazi! Nazi!"
Maryland Republican Party leaders said they wouldn't welcome Duke in the party primary, which will be held March 3.
"I wish he would stay in Louisiana," said W. Blan Harcum, an Eastern Shore Republican leader. "There's no way for him to win and he's just going to distract from the real issues. It'd just be a nuisance."
Maryland Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr. already has decided to place Duke's name on the Republican ballot alongside that of Bush and columnist Patrick Buchanan, who has indicated interest in running for president.
State law gives the secretary of state authority to place on the ballot the names of candidates "generally advocated or recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in Maryland," according to V. Onzell Ward, assistant secretary of state.