February 14, 2006

Iraq war veteran pulls out of Ohio Senate race

CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, an
Ohio Democrat who gained attention last year for criticizing
President George W. Bush and nearly scoring a huge
congressional upset, said on Tuesday he would drop his U.S.
Senate bid and retire from politics.

Hackett said he was under heavy party pressure to end his
Senate race and clear the way for Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown
to face vulnerable Republican incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine in

"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," Hackett
said in a statement.

Hackett, a Marine reservist in Iraq, almost pulled off a
stunning upset in a special House election in heavily
Republican southern Ohio last year after he sharply criticized
Bush and his conduct of the war.

Democrats said Hackett's performance was a sign of voter
unhappiness with Bush and the war and a bellwether for the 2006
congressional elections, but Republicans dismissed the result
as a function of low turnout and local issues.

Some Democratic leaders were unhappy Hackett planned to
enter the Ohio Senate race and force a primary against Brown, a
seven-term House veteran. The Ohio filing deadline for the May
2 primary is on Thursday.

Hackett's withdrawal spares Democrats a potentially costly
primary fight and clears the way for Brown to focus on DeWine.
Polls show DeWine is vulnerable in Ohio, where state
Republicans have suffered from a series of scandals and the
deep unpopularity of Republican Gov. Bob Taft.

Hackett said he would not make another try for the House
seat against Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt, even though he
gained 48 percent of the vote against her last year in a
heavily Republican district where no Democrat in decades had
managed even 40 percent.

"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," he said. "Thus ends my 11
month political career."