[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/16/art.demint.gi.jpg caption="South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint has earned a national following among conservative Republicans."](CNN) - The Democrat hoping to unseat Jim DeMint next year took direct aim at the conservative South Carolina senator for the first time on Monday, accusing him of putting "personal political ambitions" ahead of his constituents.
Chad McGowan, a trial attorney who formally entered the 2010 race in October, pounced on a remark DeMint made on a recent conference call with supporters that was printed Sunday by McClatchy newspapers.
"All of you all over the country - please remember that Senate seats are not about a particular state," DeMint said on the call, according to McClatchy. "They're about our country. Every vote I take is not about South Carolina. It's about the United States of America."
McGowan has avoided confronting DeMint directly since jumping into the race, but he said in a statement he was "disappointed" by the comments.
"It's the same story over and over," McGowan said. "Jim DeMint and his personal political ambitions come first. In times like these, we need TWO Senators who care about South Carolina, who advocate for South Carolina, and who produce for South Carolina. If we had that, we would be making real progress on some of the problems we face in our schools, employment, and crime."
He also knocked DeMint for spending time making endorsements in prominent Republican primaries around the country. The Republican has thrown his support behind conservative Senate hopefuls Marco Rubio in Florida and Chuck DeVore in California.
"An election in California or New York doesn't matter to the man or woman in South Carolina who can't find a job," McGowan said. "This is a question of priorities."
DeMint response after the jump
UPDATE: DeMint campaign manager Luke Byars responded to McGowan in an e-mail to CNN.
"Senator DeMint votes for freedom and what is in the best interest of the United States of America and that is always in the best interest of South Carolina," Byars said. "While Senator DeMint put forward a jobs plan that would have helped thousands of South Carolina businesses and families by lowering taxes, this personal injury lawyer would have joined his liberal friends in Washington on the failed stimulus that have left South Carolina at record high unemployment.
"And he just announced his support for Obama's government takeover of health care that would kill more jobs, raise taxes, raise health premiums, and put Washington bureaucrats between South Carolinians and their doctors."