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Iraq veteran enters Senate race

Democrat critical of war policy gears for fight in Ohio

CINCINNATI -- Paul Hackett, a Democratic veteran of the Iraq war who narrowly lost a special election in a heavily Republican congressional district in August, made his official entry into a US Senate race yesterday.

He faces a tough Democratic primary with Representative Sherrod Brown in the race for the nomination to challenge second-term Republican incumbent Senator Mike DeWine next year.

Hackett's only political experience is a stint as a small-city councilman.

''I think the obvious difference between myself and Sherrod Brown and Mike DeWine [is] I'm not a career politician. At best, I'm a citizen legislator," Hackett said.

Hackett's strong showing in August, ethics controversies surrounding Republican Gorvenor Bob Taft and President Bush's low approval ratings nationally -- 39 percent in a recent AP-Ipsos poll -- have given Democrats a feeling of momentum heading into the 2006 elections in Ohio, a pivotal Bush state in 2004.

Hackett said he decided to run for the Senate after being encouraged by Democratic leaders, but when Brown decided to run, too, a potentially bruising primary battle was set up.

Stuart Rothenberg, editor of a nonpartisan Washington political report, said a divisive Democratic race could help DeWine overcome GOP problems.

''There are signs that Hackett seems a little embittered," Rothenberg said. ''If he runs an aggressive race that attacks Sherrod Brown, it could divide the party."

Brown, a seventh-term congressman and former Ohio secretary of state, is expected to officially launch his Senate race in early November. He initially didn't plan to run, then changed his mind.

Referring to Brown's change of heart, Hackett said that Brown had ''a tough time keeping his word."

Brown replied Monday: ''I've said nothing negative about Paul Hackett. Let's just leave it at that."

Hackett's combat experience and sharp criticism of Bush's Iraq policies and upstart summer campaign drew national coverage.

He ran for Congress after completing a seven-month tour of duty in Iraq as a Marine reservist. The special election was to replace Representative Rob Portman, who left his seat to become the US trade representative. Republican Jean Schmidt, a former state legislator, won with 52 percent of the vote in a district Bush carried with 64 percent in 2004.

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