COLUMBUS - Paul Hackett, the former suburban Cincinnati congressional candidate viewed as a winner despite defeat, yesterday formally announced he will seek the Democratic nod next year to challenge U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine.
The 43-year-old attorney and Marine reservist who served seven months in Iraq won national attention earlier this year when he narrowly lost an Aug. 2 special election in the overwhelmingly Republican 2nd District.
The district had previously been won handily by Republican Rob Portman, who is now President Bush's U.S. trade representative.
Although former state Rep. Jean Schmidt (R., Loveland) won the contest with 52 percent of the vote, Mr. Hackett's strong showing was judged by pundits as an off-year harbinger of voter discontent with Mr. Bush going into the mid-term elections of 2006.
Some argue Mr. Hackett, with his pro-gun rights position, is too conservative to win a Democratic primary in Ohio
Mr. Hackett counters that his likely primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D., Lorain), is too liberal to beat Mr. DeWine in November, 2006.
"I believe in the core values of the Democratic Party," Mr. Hackett said. "I'm not afraid to fight for them and my values. Some of them are conservative, including on Second Amendment rights.
"A Democrat in Ohio can get all of the Democratic votes in the northeastern and central parts of the state and still not get elected," he said. "It's got to be somebody who believes in the values of all Ohioans, and that takes winning over independents and conservatives."
Mr. Brown, the seven-term congressman and former Ohio Secretary of State, said yesterday he will kick off his campaign in early to mid-November, dismissing suggestions he hasn't made up his mind.
"I don't know where Paul Hackett stands on issues," he said. "My interest is not him but in changing the direction of the state. He ran a 60-day race on Iraq, and he took three or four different positions on Iraq."
Mr. Brown walks into the race with a popular political name from the heavily Democratic Cleveland suburbs. He has $2 million already banked while Mr. Hackett has one-tenth of that on hand.
Mr. Hackett's only prior elected office was as councilman in the small town of Milford in Clermont County.
Mr. DeWine's campaign declined to comment on suggestions from Mr. Hackett and Mr. Brown that the Republican senator's ties to Gov. Bob Taft and Mr. Bush and his support for the Iraq war make him vulnerable in his bid for a third six-year term.
"Voters next year will look at Mike DeWine's record of accomplishment over the last 20 years and will make a choice of who to support," said campaign spokesman Matt Carle.
The campaign left it to the Ohio Republican Party to swing back at Mr. Hackett.
"Ohio needs a leader, not a talking head," said GOP Chairman Bob Bennett. "Paul Hackett likes to throw insults and personal attacks, but it's nothing but a distraction from his limited agenda and lack of experience."
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