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After Iraq, vet enters Ohio race

A veteran of the Iraq war is running for Congress.

Paul Hackett, a Marine reservist who returned earlier this year from Iraq, is running in a special election next month for the House seat surrendered by Rob Portman, R-Ohio, now the U.S. trade representative.

Hackett, a Democrat who would be the first House member to have served in Iraq if elected, spent seven months there working as a civil affairs officer, an experience that has become the centerpiece of his uphill battle for the mostly Republican district.

“It allows me to advocate on behalf of all the troops that are over in Iraq and really give the straight scoop on what’s going on over there. I don’t need to go on a fact-finding mission to know the reality of what’s going on in Iraq,” Hackett said. “I view (this bid) as a natural extension of the service that I gave my country.”

Republicans, who have nominated former state representative Jean Schmidt and who say Hackett, 43, is too liberal, like their odds in the Aug. 2 contest. Hackett’s first television ad reflects the area’s conservative leanings. It features a clip of President Bush saying “there is no higher calling” than military service and photos from Hackett’s tour, and it avoids any hint that the lawyer is a Democrat.

Hackett said in an interview that he opposed Bush’s decision to go to war, calling it a “misuse of the military.” But, he added: “We pride ourselves, in the Marine Corps, on being professionals, and when my country needs me, I’m happy to go.”

Hackett said his unit is slated to return to Iraq sometime next year – and that if he loses next month’s election, he intends to join them.