Iraq War Veteran Loses Close Election in Ohio

Associated Press

Iraq War Veteran Loses Close Election in Ohio

CINCINNATI – A Republican former state lawmaker has claimed a seat in Congress by narrowly defeating an Iraq war veteran who drew national attention to the race with his military service and a series of harsh attacks on President Bush.

But Democrats said they, too, had reason to celebrate – pointing to the close race as a sign of promise heading into next year’s midterm elections.

With all precincts reporting, Jean Schmidt had 52 percent, or 57,974 votes, compared with Democrat Paul Hackett’s 48 percent, or 54,401 votes. Schmidt’s margin of victory amounted to about 3,500 votes out of more than 112,000 cast.

Democrats had viewed the race as a bellwether for 2006, saying even a strong showing by Hackett in such a heavily GOP district would give them a lift.

“There’s no safe Republican district. You can run, but you cannot hide,” said U.S. Rep. Rahm Emmanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Schmidt, 53, will replace Republican Rob Portman, who stepped down this year after being named U.S. trade representative by Bush. Portman held the seat for 12 years, consistently winning with more than 70 percent of the vote in the Cincinnati-area district.

In Ohio, Schmidt billed herself as an experienced leader more in tune with the district than Hackett. She also consistently supported Bush on the war.

“We began this race way back in late March, and no one had thought we’d be the focus of the national media or be the so-called first test of the Republican Party and the Bush mandate. Well, ladies and gentleman, we passed that test,” Schmidt said.

Hackett, 43, a lawyer and Marine reservist who recently completed a seven-month tour, was vying to become the first combat veteran of the Iraq war to serve in Congress.

“This was a success. We should all be proud,” Hackett told cheering supporters. “The voters of the 2nd District won because we gave them a choice.”

He drew attention to the race with his flame-throwing assaults on Bush, namely for the president’s July 2003 “bring ’em on” comment about Iraqi insurgents. Hackett called it the “most incredibly stupid comment” he ever heard a president make, saying it “cheered on the enemy.”

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