August 2, 2005

Republican wins tight Ohio House race

CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Republicans narrowly held on to a
vacant U.S. House of Representatives seat in Ohio on Tuesday,
defeating a Democratic Iraq war veteran who had hammered away
at President Bush and his Iraq policy.

In the closely watched race, heavily favored Republican
Jean Schmidt, 53, won by a 3 percent margin over personal
injury lawyer Paul Hackett, who recently spent seven months as
a Marine civil affairs officer in hot spots like Ramadi and

The special election to replace Rob Portman, who resigned
to become U.S. trade representative after easily winning six
terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in the heavily
Republican 2nd District, tightened on what became in part a
referendum on U.S. policy in Iraq, political observers said.

During the abbreviated seven-week campaign, Hackett, 43,
criticized Bush for invading Iraq and said he then failed to
ask Americans at home to share the burdens of war.

Hackett complained about politicians who "use the war to
wrap themselves in the American flag" and called the
administration's approach to using the military to fight on
several fronts simultaneously -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the
Balkans -- while cutting taxes "irrational" and "patriotism

Schmidt, a former Ohio legislator, defended Bush's policies
in the district, which gave 64 percent of its votes to the
president's re-election last year.

"I would like to thank President Bush, who I talked to
about this race and about Matt Maupin," Schmidt said, referring
to an Army private from the Cincinnati area who was captured
last year by insurgents in Iraq and believed executed.

"I support the president and his war on terror and I will
voice that support in Washington," she said.

In his concession speech, Hackett made a veiled reference
to his criticisms of Bush: "Chickens are a very interesting
bird, not to be confused with birds of prey." He earlier had
called Bush, who had a noncombat role in the Air National Guard
during the Vietnam War, a "chicken hawk S.O.B."

"I meant it, I said it and I stand by it," Hackett said.

He has said that if he lost the election, he planned to
accompany his unit when it is ordered back to Iraq.