COLUMBUS - In the first test of the political waters since the scandal that has engulfed Ohio's Republican Party, GOP congressional candidate Jean Schmidt won a narrow victory over Democrat and Iraqi war veteran Paul Hackett in the Cincinnati-area district.
Mr. Hackett's campaign message was that President Bush has mishandled the Iraq war, but in the final days of the campaign, he focused on Ms. Schmidt's ties to Gov. Bob Taft and the state's expanding rare-coin scandal.
Ms. Schmidt's campaign said late last night that she had won with 52 percent of the vote. A year ago, Rob Portman, a Republican, won the district with about 72 percent of the votes.
"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 [President] Bush mandate. Well, ladies and gentleman, we passed that test," said Ms. Schmidt, the first woman elected from southern Ohio's 2nd District.
Denny White, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said last night the tight race is a sign of the Democratic Party's re-emergence in the Buckeye state, calling the results a "measurement of what's going on here in Ohio."
"The political environment in this state has drastically shifted," Mr. White said. "People are ready for a change. The Republicans have overstayed their welcome."
Mr. Hackett linked Ms. Schmidt to the scandal after The Blade reported last week that she had lobbied the governor's office on behalf of an online lottery ticket company, in which former Toledo-area coin dealer Tom Noe had invested state money.
Mr. Noe, whose failed $50 million state rare-coin fund is under federal and state investigation, invested about $150,000 in Games Inc., a Cincinnati company pushing online lottery ticket sales.
Ms. Schmidt accepted a $1,000 campaign contribution from Games, Inc. CEO Roger Ach II for her state representative race in 2002, a year after she lobbied the governor to consider online lottery sales.
The race was tighter than expected, with Ms. Schmidt winning her home county of Clermont, neighboring Warren County and Hamilton County, where Mr. Hackett is an attorney in Indian Hill. Mr. Hackett won mostly rural Adams, Brown, Scioto, and Pike counties.