Iraq Veteran Seeks House Seat From Ohio

CINCINNATI - Republican Jean Schmidt was first in line when the polls opened Tuesday as voters in a southwestern Ohio congressional seat chose between her and Democrat Paul Hackett, an Iraq veteran who is critical of the war.

Tuesday's special election in the heavily GOP district was for the seat of former Rep. Rob Portman (news, bio, voting record), who stepped down this year to become U.S. trade representative.

Schmidt, a former state representative, voted shortly after 6:30 a.m. at a school in her Clermont County precinct.

"We're going to be in first place at 7:30 this evening," she predicted. Schmidt was joined at the poll by a dozen supporters.

Hackett planned to vote later in the morning in the Cincinnati suburb of Indian Hill.

Both candidates rang doorbells and shook hands with potential voters Monday in the final stages of a campaign that has drawn national attention largely because of Hackett's military service and his criticism of President Bush.

Hackett, who would be the first Iraq war combat veteran in Congress if elected, campaigned with fellow vets Monday. He also had weekend campaign help from two other veterans, former Sens. John Glenn of Ohio and Max Cleland of Georgia.

"This is what America is all about," Hackett said. "This is democracy in action."

Both campaigns had TV and radio commercials sweeping the district, while campaign workers focused on get-out-the-vote efforts. Hackett has been the strongest Democratic candidate in decades in Ohio's 2nd District, where Portman regularly received more than 70 percent of the vote during his 12 years in Congress.

Schmidt, 53, says that she has consistently supported Bush on the war and that voters in the conservative district do not like Hackett's criticism. She served as a state representative from 2001 until 2004, when she narrowly lost a GOP primary bid for state Senate. She currently serves as president of Greater Cincinnati Right to Life.

Hackett, a 43-year-old Marine Corps Reserve major who volunteered to serve a seven-month tour in Iraq, opposed the invasion and has said U.S. troops need better protection.

He was particularly critical of President Bush for his July 2003 "bring 'em on" comment about Iraqi insurgents, telling USA Today such talk was "incredibly stupid" and "cheered on the enemy."

Yet Hackett's first campaign commercial opened with a video clip of Bush saying: "There is no higher calling than service in our armed forces."

Also on Tuesday, Detroit voters will choose among 12 candidates in a nonpartisan mayoral primary, with the top two vote-getters facing off in the Nov. 8 general election. Former deputy mayor Freman Hendrix is among the challengers to incumbent Kwame Kilpatrick.