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Published: Friday, 10/7/2005

Brown's jump into Senate race makes it a 3-way contest

BY JIM TANKERSLEY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
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Democrats scoured Ohio all summer for a high-caliber candidate to oppose U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine. Suddenly they have two.

U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown confirmed to The Blade yesterday he will run for the Senate in 2006 after publicly passing up the race in August. The suburban Cleveland congressman said his family stands behind him and a formal announcement will be made in three weeks.

Last night, Mr. Brown announced his candidacy on a Web site affiliated with him, www.growohio.org, telling supporters The culture of corruption plaguing state and federal government has led our state down the wrong path and it is time for change.

Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran who recently lost a tight special congressional election in a GOP-dominated district, still plans to enter the race Oct. 24 despite Mr. Brown s decision, an aide said. Mr. Hackett was drilling with his Marine unit and was unavailable for comment.

The candidate proliferation is a swift shift for national Democrats, who failed to talk several prospects into the race even as polls showed Republicans falling in voters eyes and Mr. DeWine vulnerable to defeat.

But it comes with a side effect: A potentially expensive primary between two candidates party leaders recruited, at one time or another, for the race.

We ve always said, going back to the beginning of the year, that Mike DeWine s going eyes and Mr. DeWine vulnerable to defeat. But it comes with a side effect: A potentially expensive primary between two candidates party leaders recruited, at one time or another, for the race.

We ve always said, going back to the beginning of the year, that Mike DeWine s going to have a tough campaign and there are going to be people lining up to take him on, said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And it s turned out to be true.

Mr. DeWine said in a phone interview that he expects a competitive race, he doesn t care who his opponent is, and he s thinking more about Harriet Miers President Bush s pick to replace Justice Sandra Day O Connor on the Supreme Court than re-election. I m pretty much focused on the Supreme Court nomination and things like that, Mr. DeWine said. So we ll get to [the Senate race] when we get to that, I guess.

Mr. Brown wasn t the first Democratic congressman from Ohio to reconsider a statewide run this year: U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland (D., Lucasville) ruled out the governor s race in January but reversed course in May, entering a primary with Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman.

A spokesman for the Strickland campaign yesterday called Mr. Strickland and Mr. Brown close friends from their years in Congress but declined to talk about Mr. Brown s race until his formal announcement.

Analysts say it s easy to see why the Senate race enticed both Mr. Hackett and Mr. Brown: Mounting scandals have battered Republicans in Ohio, and Hurricane Katrina, gas-price hikes, ethics scandals, and the Iraq war appear to be hurting the party nationally.

There s definitely a Bush drag out there, said Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report in Washington. And really, Ohio, it s radioactive. It s so toxic for Republicans, they re starting to glow.

Mr. DeWine, she added, could avoid some GOP fallout in a general election, ironically because he has angered conservatives over gun rights and judicial nominees.

While several conservative groups questioned Ms. Miers qualifications and judicial philosophy yesterday, for example, he defended her deep moral convictions and pretty impressive resume.

It separates him from most Republicans, Ms. Duffy said.

Bloggers and analysts debated yesterday who would match up better with Mr. DeWine. Mr. Brown appears to hold some traditional advantages, including more campaign experience, a base in the large Cleveland media market, and about $2 million in his campaign fund. Mr. Hackett has his war experience, outspoken nature, political outsider status, and what Ms. Duffy called a cult following online.

Leading Democrats are largely staying neutral. The national committee has yet to mention Mr. Brown or Mr. Hackett s intentions on its Web site. A spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party, Brian Rothenberg, said candidates could still enter or exit the race.

Staff writer Joshua Boak contributed to this story. Contact Jim Tankersley at:jtankersley@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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