Paul Hackett, the Iraq war vet whose brief U.S. Senate run in Ohio and messy withdrawal from the race attracted national attention earlier this year, yesterday endorsed his onetime rival for the Democratic nomination, Rep. Sherrod Brown.
Hackett was pressured to exit the race in February by Democratic Party leaders who favored the more establishment Brown. "I can only stay pissed off so long," Hackett said in an interview yesterday afternoon, shortly after appearing at what was billed as a "unity rally" with Brown in Cincinnati. "How I got out of the race, how I handled it, was not my proudest moment."
When Hackett withdrew from the Senate race, he described the move as a "second betrayal."
"First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq," he told the New York Times at the time, "and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me.''
Hackett first made national headlines with his unexpectedly close finish in a 2005 special U.S. House election in Ohio in which the Republican was heavily favored. He said he decided to make amends with Brown while he was home mowing his lawn last Thursday evening and that he called Brown later that night.
Brown and his wife stopped by Hackett's Cincinnati home on Saturday for what was scheduled to be a 30-minute chat; they wound up talking for 21/2 hours. "My political views are very similar to Sherrod's," says Hackett, who, like Brown, has been a fierce critic of the Iraq war.
Asked in an interview how Hackett's endorsement will affect his race, Brown said, "Paul has a lot of supporters and admirers… a lot of people look to him for guidance. He's particularly tied in well to veterans around the state."
Brown is challenging two-term Republican Sen. Mike DeWine. "Is Democrats endorsing Democrats news?" asked DeWine spokesman Brian Seitchik in response to the Hackett endorsement. The DeWine campaign spent much of the day publicizing the senator's appearance last night with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Hackett, an attorney, said he did not discuss any rewards for his endorsement should Brown win election and that he doesn't have plans to run for office. But Brown said Hackett might have a political future: "If he runs for something again, I wouldn't be surprised if I was standing with him."Dan Gilgoff