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Democrats celebrate narrow U.S. House loss in Ohio

August 3, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats on Wednesday celebrated a
closer-than-expected loss in a special House of Representatives
race in Ohio and called it a warning sign for Republicans
entering the 2006 congressional elections.

But Republicans cautioned against reading too much into
Jean Schmidt’s narrow win over Democrat and Iraq war veteran
Paul Hackett, saying low turnout and local issues made the race
unique and kept it from being a bellwether on Republican
leadership or President Bush.

Schmidt, a former state representative, beat Hackett by
3,500 votes out of more than 112,000 cast in the conservative
and heavily Republican district, where no Democrat in decades
had won or even managed 40 percent of the vote.

Hackett’s criticism of the Iraq war and tough attacks on
Bush energized the contest to replace Rob Portman, who resigned
to become U.S. trade representative after regularly rolling up
70 percent of the vote in the district.

“Every Republican in Congress should consider himself put
on notice,” Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said of Tuesday’s
results.

Hackett tried to tie Schmidt to ethics allegations against
unpopular Ohio Republican Gov. Bob Taft, and Democrats hope to
make ethics scandals surrounding Texas Rep. Tom DeLay and other
Republicans a centerpiece of their 2006 campaign.

Democrats said the close race was a sign that scandals and
dissatisfaction with the country’s direction were taking a toll
on Republicans.

“Americans will no longer tolerate the Republicans’
continued abuses of power and catering to corporate special
interests,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California
said.

But Republicans said the low turnout, well below the nearly
300,000 votes cast in 2004, and the races run by the two
candidates skewed the results.

“Special elections are unique, they don’t always reflect
the district’s usual results,” said Carl Forti, a spokesman for
the House Republican campaign committee. He said Hackett’s two
television advertisements featured Bush and made no mention of
the fact Hackett was a Democrat.

“Hackett ran as a Republican, he never called himself a
Democrat,” Forti said, adding Democrats had “a long way to go”
to make ethics a national issue for 2006.

Amy Walter, a House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook
Report, said Hackett ran a much better campaign than Schmidt
and was a stronger candidate. The result, however, should give
Democrats hope and make some Republicans nervous, she said.

“Republicans in Ohio should definitely be very concerned
about this,” Walter said, noting several incumbent Ohio
Republicans, most notably Rep. Bob Ney, face potentially tough
re-election races next year.

Hackett said the result should encourage Democrats
nationwide.

“We have the power to win back Congress. Yesterday proved
it,” he said in an e-mail fund-raising pitch for Democracy for
America, the group started by Democratic National Committee
Chairman Howard Dean.

“Yesterday, one of the reddest regions in America turned a
whole lot bluer,” Hackett said.




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