Popular Ohio Democrat Drops Out of Race, and Perhaps Politics
By IAN URBINA
York Times" -- -- Paul Hackett, an Iraq war
veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio's closely
watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out
of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of
pressure from party leaders.
Mr. Hackett said Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and
Harry Reid of Nevada, the same party leaders who he said
persuaded him last August to enter the Senate race, had pushed
him to step aside so that Representative Sherrod Brown, a
longtime member of Congress, could take on Senator Mike DeWine,
the Republican incumbent.
Mr. Hackett staged a surprisingly strong Congressional run last
year in an overwhelmingly Republican district and gained
national prominence for his scathing criticism of the Bush
administration's handling of the Iraq War. It was his
performance in the Congressional race that led party leaders to
recruit him for the Senate race.
But for the last two weeks, he said, state and national
Democratic Party leaders have urged him to drop his Senate
campaign and again run for Congress.
"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has
been forced on me," said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes
two days before the state's filing deadline for candidates. He
said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling
his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not
enter the Second District Congressional race.
"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First,
my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and
now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."
Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national
office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race
has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who
oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security.
"Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it
also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans
that we've worked to run for Congress," said Mike Lyon,
executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated
to electing Democratic veterans to national office. "Now is a
time for Democrats to be courting, not blocking, veterans who
want to run."
But Democratic leaders say Representative Brown, a seven-term
incumbent from Avon, has a far better chance of toppling Senator
"It boils down to who we think can pull the most votes in
November against DeWine," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the
Ohio Democratic Party. "And in Ohio, Brown's name is golden.
It's just that simple."
Mr. Fern added that Mr. Brown's fund-raising abilities made him
the better Senate candidate. By the end of last year, Mr. Brown
had already amassed $2.37 million, 10 times what Mr. Hackett had
Senator Reid did not reply to repeated requests for comment.
Asked about Mr. Hackett's contention that he had been pressed to
leave the Senate race, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer, Phil Singer,
said, "We've told both Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett that
avoiding a primary will make it easier to win the Ohio Senate
seat, " but he added, "Obviously, the decision to run is Mr.
Hackett's and Mr. Hackett's alone."
Mr. Brown declined to comment on Mr. Hackett's candidacy, saying
that he was strictly focused on building his own campaign.
Democrats wanted to avoid a drawn-out primary, especially one
that could get bruising with a tough-talking outsider like Mr.
The Ohio Senate race is regarded as critical to Democratic
aspirations to take back Congress in the fall. Aside from
focusing on Senator DeWine, the Democrats also hope to win as
many as eight House seats in Ohio and the governorship from the
Ohio Democrats are hoping to exploit the larger problems
plaguing the Republicans. State Republicans have struggled to
distance themselves from Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican who cannot
run again because of term limits and who was found guilty last
summer of four misdemeanor ethics violations. Representative Bob
Ney's still-unfolding role in the scandal over the lobbyist Jack
Abramoff also looms over the state's Republicans.
Mr. Hackett said he was unwilling to run for the Congressional
seat because he had given his word to three Democratic
candidates that he would not enter that race.
"The party keeps saying for me not to worry about those promises
because in politics they are broken all the time," said Mr.
Hackett, who plans to return to his practice as a lawyer in the
Cincinnati area. "I don't work that way. My word is my bond."
Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political
Report, said that part of what made Democratic leaders nervous
about Mr. Hackett was what had also made him so popular with
"Hackett is seen by many as a straight talker, and he became an
icon to the liberal bloggers because he says exactly what they
have wished they would hear from a politician," Ms. Duffy said.
"On the other hand, the Senate is still an exclusive club, and
the party expects a certain level of decorum that Hackett has
not always shown."
Mr. Hackett was widely criticized last year for using indecent
language to describe President Bush. Last month, state
Republicans attacked Mr. Hackett for saying their party had been
hijacked by religious extremists who he said "aren't a whole lot
different than Osama bin Laden."
Though Republicans called for an apology, Mr. Hackett repeated
the mantra of his early campaign: "I said it. I meant it. I
stand behind it."
Copyright 2006The New York Times Company
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