CINCINNATI – A Republican former state lawmaker claimed a seat in Congress on Tuesday by narrowly defeating an Iraq war veteran who drew national attention to the race with his military service and a series of harsh attacks on President Bush (search).
With all precincts reporting, Jean Schmidt (search) had 52 percent, or 57,974 votes, compared with Democrat Paul Hackett's 48 percent, or 54,401 votes. Schmidt's margin of victory amounted to about 3,500 votes out of more than 112,000 cast.
Schmidt, 53, will replace Republican Rob Portman (search), who stepped down this year after being named U.S. trade representative by Bush. Portman held the seat for 12 years, consistently winning with more than 70 percent of the vote in the Cincinnati-area district.
Democrats had viewed the race as a bellwether for 2006, saying even a strong showing by Hackett in such a heavily GOP district would be a good sign for them in the midterm elections.
"We began this race way back in late march, and no one had thought we'd be the focus of the national media or be the so-called first test of the Republican Party and the Bush mandate. Well, ladies and gentleman, we passed that test," Schmidt said.
In other races Tuesday, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (search) and former deputy mayor Freman Hendrix (search) emerged from a 12-candidate mayoral primary to advance to the general election. With 56 percent of the vote in, Hendrix had 44 percent of the vote, Kilpatrick had 34 percent and the next nearest candidate had only 12 percent.
Kilpatrick was heralded as Detroit's next great hope when he was elected four years ago at age 31, but his term has been marred by a $300 million budget deficit, scrutiny over his running up huge bills on a city credit card, and the city's lease of a luxury SUV for his family.
In Ohio, Schmidt billed herself as an experienced leader more in tune with the district than Hackett. She is the first woman ever elected to Congress from the 2nd District.
Hackett, 43, is a lawyer and Marine reservist who recently completed a seven-month tour and was vying to become the first combat veteran of the Iraq war to serve in Congress.
He drew attention to the race with his flame-throwing assaults on Bush, namely for the president's July 2003 "bring 'em on" comment about Iraqi insurgents. Hackett called the comment "most incredibly stupid comment" he ever heard a president make, and said it "cheered on the enemy."
Schmidt consistently supported Bush on the war, and said she shares the "moral values" of the district with her opposition to abortion and to gay marriage.
In another race in Detroit, Motown legend Martha Reeves was one of 120 City Council candidates vying for 18 spots in the general election. Reeves, 64, was the lead singer of Martha and the Vandellas and had hit singles that included "Dancing in the Street," "Jimmy Mack," and "Nowhere to Run."