SEAMAN, Ohio (AP) — A few months ago, Paul Hackett was flushing out insurgents and avoiding ambushes in Fallujah, Ramadi and other hot spots in the Iraq war. Today, the Marine is trying to round up votes in small southern Ohio towns like this one.
Mr. Hackett, a Democrat, is running in a special election Aug. 2 in a bid to become the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress.
So at dawn on a recent day, he was having eggs and toast at Cruiser’s Diner, recounting his war experiences to a young soldier facing Iraq duty later this year.
Later in the day, he was campaigning among avid hunters in Adams County, telling them about the guns he keeps at home and joking: “I thought gun control was when you hit your target.”
And in the town of Peebles, he ran into two retired veterans and fell into a discussion of tattoos, like the Marine emblem he has over his heart.
The 43-year-old lawyer, former Milford city council member and Marine Reserve major is hoping his battlefield experience will help him become the first Democrat to get elected in Ohio’s conservative 2nd District in three decades.
He is facing a well-known, experienced Republican — former state Rep. Jean Schmidt — in the seven counties stretching east from the Cincinnati suburbs through largely rural areas.
Mr. Hackett said he was urged by friends to run when he returned from Iraq in March. He calls his candidacy “a natural extension” of his military service and says going to Congress as the lone Iraq war veteran could give him a voice on the war and related issues.
Although Mr. Hackett initially opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a pre-emptive war that “set a bad precedent,” he now says: “We’re there now. My Marines are over there fighting. We can’t cut and run … I want to see what we’re doing in Iraq work out.”
He said training of Iraqi forces must be improved dramatically, and U.S. units should be paired with Iraqi units for “24-7” teamwork and training.
For her part, Miss Schmidt has said that she supported the war from the beginning and that Iraqi troops must be trained to defend their country before the U.S. pulls out.
Miss Schmidt and Mr. Hackett both espouse fiscal conservatism and limited government, although she goes into more detail with proposals such as eliminating estate and capital gains taxes and instituting a flat tax. Another difference: He supports pro-choice rights, while she heads the Cincinnati-area Right to Life.