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Published: Tuesday, 2/14/2006

Iraq war vet from Ohio quits Senate race, politics

BY JIM TANKERSLEY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Paul Hackett Paul Hackett
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Democrat Paul Hackett has officially quit the race for U.S. Senate and ended his 11-month political career.

Mr. Hackett released a statement this morning saying he would halt his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Cedarville), after Democratic leaders pressured him to switch and run for the House instead. Mr. Hackett said he would not enter the race in Ohio s 2nd Congressional district.

Today I am announcing that I am withdrawing from the race for United States Senate, Mr. Hackett s statement began. I made this decision reluctantly, only after repeated requests by party leaders, as well as behind the scenes machinations, that were intended to hurt my campaign.

The statement concluded with two words: Rock on.

The move sets the stage for a general election brawl between Mr. DeWine and U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from suburban Cleveland. Both men have built multi-million dollar campaign chests, and analysts consider their race one of a handful that will decide control of the Senate this fall.

Mr. Hackett is an attorney and an Iraq war veteran. He drew national attention including raves and campaign cash from Internet blogs in the congressional race last year by speaking frankly and loudly against the war and President Bush. He lost the election, in a heavily Republican district, by 4 percentage points.

Democratic leaders recruited Mr. Hackett to challenge Mr. DeWine last fall, after a string of high-profile Democrats including Mr. Brown and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles publicly passed on the race. Polls showed Mr. DeWine vulnerable, and Democrats had few other options to pick up seats in the Senate, where Republicans hold an 11-seat majority.

Mr. Hackett agreed to enter the Senate race in October. He vowed to stay in days later, when Mr. Brown reconsidered and said he would run, too.

The candidates battled for funds and votes. Mr. Brown pushed worker s rights, opposed free trade agreements, and denounced corporate lobbyists influence in Washington. Mr. Hackett called for America to withdraw troops from Iraq and pushed a libertarian-style platform that embraces both gay marriage and gun ownership rights.

Both candidates raised nearly $500,000 last quarter. But Mr. Brown reported about $2 million more available to spend than Mr. Hackett, thanks to a campaign fund built through seven terms in Congress.

The money gap and the hope that Democrats could put another House race in play nationally as they mount a long-shot bid to win control of the chamber pushed party leaders to urge Mr. Hackett to jump races.

Chris Redfern, the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, expressed optimism yesterday that Mr. Hackett might heed the call.

We needed the strongest ticket in the fall, Mr. Redfern said. It s just common political slate-building.

The announcement of Mr. Hackett s withdrawal drew outrage, frustration, and sadness on many of the Internet blogs that helped speed Mr. Hackett s political rise.

Ugly isn t even an understatement for this, one poster wrote on the site blog.oh02.com. It will be a pleasure watching Brown lose to DeWine in November. The Democratic party s Big Tent has officially collapsed and blown away.

Here is Mr. Hackett s full statement:

Today I am announcing that I am withdrawing from the race for United States Senate. I made this decision reluctantly, only after repeated requests by party leaders, as well as behind the scenes machinations, that were intended to hurt my campaign.

But there was no quid pro quo. I will not be running in the Second Congressional District nor for any other elective office. This decision is final, and not subject to reconsideration.

I told the voters from the beginning that I am not a career politician and never aspired to be that I was about leadership, service and commitment.

Similarly, I told party officials that I had given my word to other good Democrats, who will take the fight to the Second District, that I would not run. In reliance on my word they entered the race. I said it. I meant it. I stand by it. At the end of the day, my word is my bond and I will take it to my grave.

Thus ends my 11 month political career. Although it is an overused political clich , I really will be spending more time with my family, something I wasn t able to do because my service to country in the political realm continued after my return from Iraq. Perhaps my wonderful wife Suzi said it best after we made this decision when she said Honey, welcome home. I really did marry up.

To my friends and supporters, I pledge that I will continue to fight and to speak out on the issues I believe in. As long as I have the microphone, I will serve as your voice.

It is with my deepest respect and humility that I thank each and every one of you for the support you extended to our campaign to take back America, and personally to me and my family. Together we made a difference. We changed the debate on the Iraq War, we inspired countless veterans to continue their service by running for office as Democrats and we made people believe again. We must continue to believe.

Remember, we must retool our party. We must do more than simply aspire to deliver greatness; we must have the commitment and will to fight for what is great about our party and our country; Peace, prosperity and the freedoms that define our democracy.

Rock on.



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