were held in Ohio's 2nd congressional district
on August 2
, to choose a United States Representative
to replace Rob Portman
, who resigned his seat on April 29
, to become United States Trade Representative
. Jean Schmidt
, the Republican Party
candidate, defeated Democrat Paul Hackett
, in a surprisingly close election as the district has not elected a Democrat
since Tom Luken
won a 1974 special election
Background on the district
The district is the 57th most Republican
congressional district in the nation by the reckoning of the Cook Political Report
. It stretches along the Ohio River
from the Hamilton County
suburbs of Cincinnati
east to Scioto County
, and includes all of Adams
, Brown Pike
, and Clermont
counties and parts of Hamilton
It includes all of the Warren County municipalities of Lebanon, South Lebanon, Loveland, Maineville, Morrow, Butlerville, and Pleasant Plain, and parts of the municipalities of Mason and Blanchester. All of Union, Hamilton, Harlan, Salem, and Washington Townships were in the district, as well as parts of Turtlecreek Township immediately adjacent to the city of Lebanon, and southern Deerfield Township. The Hamilton County municipalities of Sharonville, Blue Ash, Deer Park, Loveland, Madeira, Newtown, Terrace Park, and Indian Hill were in the district, along with eastern parts of Cincinnati. All of Anderson and Symmes Townships and parts of Sycamore Township and the city of Springdale are also in the district.
The district (known as the First District before 1982) has been in Republican hands for all but nine years since 1879. The last Democrat to win a full term in this district was Jack Gilligan in 1964. No Democrat had held the seat since Thomas A. Luken's narrow loss to Willis D. Gradison in 1974. Since Luken's defeat, no Democrat had won more than 40% of the vote in the general election.
Portman won the seat in a 1993 special election with 77 percent of the vote. In six subsequent campaigns he never received less than 70 percent.
The Republican Primary
The primary was held on June 14
. Eleven candidates qualified for the ballot. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order, followed by their age, hometown, home county, occupation, and prior political experience. One candidate filed but his petitions were rejected by elections officials, August F. Geier of Hamilton County
's Springfield Township
- Steve Austin, 57, Meigs Township (near Peebles), Adams County, retired civics teacher. First time candidate.
- Tom Bemmes, 43, Reading, Hamilton County, junior high teacher. Former member of the Board of Education of the Reading Community City School District.
- Tom Brinkman, 47, Mount Lookout (part of Cincinnati), Hamilton County, printing salesman. Member of the Ohio House of Representatives.
- R. Patrick DeWine, 37, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, lawyer. Hamilton County Commissioner and son of U.S Sen. R. Michael DeWine.
- Peter Fossett, 43, Montgomery, Hamilton County, teacher. First time candidate.
- Bob McEwen, 55, Anderson Township, Hamilton County, lobbyist. Former member of the United States House of Representatives (1981-1993) from the 6th District.
- Eric Minamyer, 51, Symmes Township, Hamilton County, lawyer. Symmes Township trustee.
- Douglas E. Mink, 29, Sharonville, Hamilton County, teacher. Unsuccessful candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives in 2002.
- Jeff Morgan, 37, Meigs Township (near Peebles), Adams County, mailman and youth minister. First time candidate.
- Jean Schmidt, 53, Miami Township, Clermont County, farmer. Former Miami Township trustee and former member of the Ohio House of Representatives.
- David R. Smith, 35, Deerfield Township, Warren County, financial analyst. First time candidate.
Four leading candidates
Because the district is overwhelmingly Republican, most attention was paid to the Republican primary and then mostly to the candidates with the greatest name recognition and experience: Pat DeWine
, Bob McEwen
, Jean Schmidt
, and Tom Brinkman
- Pat DeWine was probably best known from his three successful campaigns for the Cincinnati city council and his election in November 2004 to the Hamilton County Commission. He also benefitted from his father, U.S. Senator Mike DeWine, having held statewide office since 1991, first as lieutenant governor and then senator.
- Bob McEwen, who was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives at twenty-four and Congress at thirty, served six terms in Washington representing the old Sixth Congressional District (centered around his hometown of Hillsboro) until his narrow defeat in a hard fought campaign in 1992.
- Jean Schmidt, a lifetime resident of Clermont County's Miami Township where she served as a township trustee for eleven years before her election to the Ohio House in 2000, narrowly lost the March 2004 primary for the Ohio Senate by twenty-two votes.
- Tom Brinkman, a member of the Ohio House since 2001, was disliked by his party's leadership because of his ardent opposition to the G.O.P.'s tax and spend policies in Columbus and his defeat of the endorsed Republican candidate in his primary in March 2000.
The remaining Republican candidates were either complete unknowns, such as Steve Austin, or had name recognition in limited areas, such as former Reading school board member Tom Bemmes and Symmes Township trustee Eric Minamyer.
DeWine faces questions over his family
DeWine amassed a campaign treasury larger than all his rivals combined, raising over $750,000. He was helped by his father, thousands coming from the political action committees
associated with Republican colleagues of his father, such as Mississippi Senator Trent Lott
. McEwen was dependent on his own money, contributing $250,000 to his campaign. Schmidt also made significant contributions to her campaign.
DeWine's father was also a hindrance to the campaign. Never the most conservative of Republican senators, DeWine angered supporters of President George W. Bush by his participation in a deal to avoid the "nuclear option" to filibusters on Bush's nominees to federal courts. Pat DeWine told the press had he been in Congress, he would not have supported his father's compromise.
More damaging to DeWine were the questions raised about his personal life. In 2004, he had faced incumbent John Dowlin in the March primary for the Republican nomination to be county commissioner. Dowlin had run ads calling attention to DeWine leaving his pregnant wife and their two children for a mistress working as a lobbyist. Though Dowlin lost, the issue was resurrected by DeWine's rivals in 2005. McEwen and Schmidt made it a point in their stump speeches to emphasize how long they had been married to their spouses, Schmidt declaring "I am a woman of character who has been married for twenty-nine years."
Many voters agreed with the critics. A letter from Jeffrey S. Learman of Warren County's Deerfield Township published in The Pulse-Journal on June 9 stated:
- If Pat DeWine cannot honor his vow before God to preserve the sanctity of his marriage by remaining faithful to his wife, how can he possibly be trusted to honor a vow before God to uphold and defend the Constitution, to preserve the freedom and liberties of those residing in the 2nd Congressional District? If Pat DeWine would betray those closest to him--his wife and children--then no one, especially constituents whom he has never met, is safe from his treachery. Pat DeWine is unfit for public office, even that of dog catcher.
DeWine was criticized by Simon Leis, Hamilton County sheriff and a former prosecuting attorney and judge, who said he should resign. "I think the man should step down," Leis said. "The citizens of this community deserve someone who will run the county full time." (Leis was later to become chairman of Minamyer's campaign.)
DeWine focuses on McEwen
DeWine focused his attention on the most experienced candidate, Bob McEwen. DeWine said McEwen had "wasted taxpayers' money" by having the most expensive Congressional office of any Ohio member of the U.S. House
. DeWine criticized McEwen's bouncing of 166 checks on the House bank, a major factor in his 1992
defeat. And DeWine tried to depict McEwen as a carpetbagger, asking in television advertisements "If Bob McEwen really cares about us, why has he spent the last twelve years living in Virginia
?" McEwen denied he has bounced any checks, repeating what he had claimed in 1992
and insisted that he had continued to reside in Ohio since he lost his re-election bid, that he had never voted in Virginia
nor held a Virginia
drivers license. (McEwen did not live in the second district until April 11
, when he bought a condominium in Anderson Township
; but DeWine did not live in the district until he bought a home there on April 6
.) DeWine quoted correspondence from the Highland County
Board of Elections cancelling McEwen's voter registration for living in Virginia
DeWine also questioned McEwen's record on taxes, sending out mailings criticizing McEwen's vote on May 24, 1982 in the 97th Congress "in support of a Democrat budget that raised out taxes by $233 billion." Two mailings focused on this issue, one featuring a photograph of Ronald Reagan which was captioned "When President Reagan Needed Votes to Keep Taxes Low, Bob McEwen Said 'NO'", the other asking "Are We Still the Party of Lower Taxes?" which noted DeWine supports Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's amendment to the Ohio Constitution to limit spending increases and had a photo of DeWine and Blackwell together.
McEwen responds to DeWine
McEwen ran television ads that lamented DeWine's "desperate, untrue attacks" but did not attempt to refute them, instead focusing on how he would continue to advance the idea of Ronald Reagan
. To emphasize his connection to Reagan, McEwen brought Reagan aide and Attorney General Edwin Meese
to Ohio to speak on how important McEwen had been in advancing Reagan's legislative agenda. McEwen also emphasized his return to Congress would mean he would enter not as a freshman but as a seventh termer, thus entitling him to better committee assignments. However, spokesmen for Ohio's Deborah Pryce
, chairman of the House Republican Conference
, the body which decides such matters, denied McEwen would automatically get his former seniority back.
On the issues, McEwen emphasized his pro-life stance and support for immigration reform. One mailing he sent had a picture of 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta's visa captioned "Shocking: All of the 9/11 murderers had visas issued to them by the U.S. State Department" and called for "a military presence on the Mexican and Canadian borders."
McEwen had high profile endorsements from Focus on the Family leader James Dobson, former United States Attorney General Edwin Meese, Cincinnati Bengals player Anthony Munoz, American Family Association president Donald Wildmon, Citizens for Community Values anti-pornography crusader Phil Burress, and former New York congressman and 1996 vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who came to the district to campaign for him. Kemp said in a rally in Clermont County on May 20 that "Bob and his wife Liz are like part of our family." Dobson wrote in his endorsement letter "I have rarely been more excited about a candidate running in a highly significant race than I am about Bob McEwen for Congress . . . . If Bob returns to the House of Representatives, he will once again emerge as a tireless champion for the family and for traditional conservative values."
Ed Meese came to Cincinnati on May 31 to campaign for McEwen saying "Ronald Reagan relied on him heavily". Rival candidate Pat DeWine the same day questioned McEwen's post-Congressional career as a lobbyist, issuing a press release saying "no one who has ever served in Congress ought to be allowed to become a lobbyist. Ever."
Congressman John Boehner, whose Eighth District was to the west of the Second, endorsed McEwen on June 7. Boehner was a freshman in McEwen's final term. He said "Bob is the most qualified to step in and represent that district." The Congressmen from other neighboring districts, Steve Chabot and Mike Turner, were silent in the primary race. McEwen a week before the primary was reported to have raised $366,429, McEwen donating $250,000 to his campaign; DeWine's total was $743,407.
DeWine vs. Brinkman
also targeted Tom Brinkman
. One mailing had a large ominous photograph of a man in a ski mask pointing a gun directly at the viewer. The caption was "Tom Brinkman opposes the death penalty
, even for child murderers
, cop killers and terrorists
who kill Americans." The mailing also stated "Tom Brinkman says he's a conservative
but when it comes to the safety of our families, he doesn't stand with us" and that murderers "will get off easy if he casts the deciding vote."
However, Brinkman's opposition to the death penalty was rooted in his pro-life beliefs. One of Brinkman's mailings said "Tom Brinkman believes all life is precious and must be protected. He has a 100% pro-life voting record." Brinkman's position was that he was "100% pro-life from conception to natural death." While DeWine also stated his pro-life position, Brinkman noted on his web-site "Because of [my] unwavering support of the Right to Life, from conception to natural death, Ohio Right to Life, Cincinnati Right to Life and Family First have again exclusively endorsed my election this year." Shortly after this statement, however, Family First added Bob McEwen to their endorsed list as well.
Schmidt is compared to Brinkman
was criticized in ads paid for by the Club for Growth
, the Washington, D.C.
-based group associated with Grover Norquist
which campaigns for lower taxes and actively works for the defeat of Republicans it considers insufficiently conservative, such as Senator Arlen Specter
. “Jean Schmidt is a proven supporter of higher taxes. Her record in the Ohio State Legislature shows that she voted to raise the state sales tax and opposed efforts to keep property taxes down,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey
The Club's ads noted Schmidt had voted in favor of Governor Taft's 20 percent increase in the state sales tax
and increases in the state budget. The Club compared her unfavorably to Tom Brinkman
, who was hailed in the ad as "Honest. Conservative. Leader." The Ohio Taxpayers Association disputed the Club's ad. Its president told The Cincinnati Enquirer
that Schmidt had "a pretty good record" in Columbus and that the OTA's political action committee had endorsed her. Schmidt explained her vote in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer
in February 2004:
- I understood that it is our responsibility to not only balance the budget but to make sure the citizens of Ohio have the adequate services to meet their needs. And toward that end, I did the responsible thing. I voted for the budget, because constitutionally we had to have a balanced budget.
In her campaign, Schmidt ran on a conservative platform. In one mailing to voters, she promised to "reduce our taxes", "keep our nation safe", advocated "a responsible energy policy", and for "promoting family values." The tag line on the mailer was "continuing a tradition of character and leadership."
Schmidt's campaign literature noted her pro-life voting record, her opposition to gay marriage, her high ratings from the National Rifle Association, and that she "opposes an activist court system that acts against our conservative values." Her literature also featured her endorsement by Phil Fulton, a pastor who fought the court ordered removal of tablets containing the Ten Commandments from the grounds of schools in Adams County. Fulton was quoted in a Schmidt mailing:
- Jean has stood strong in our 10 Commandments fight and all the moral issues that concern the people of adams County. As a member of the 10 Commandments Committee and a pastor for 30 years, I support her whole heartedly.
Minamyer more low key
Eric Minamyer ran a much more low-key campaign. His lone television spot was minimally produced, featuring him speaking directly to the camera while pictures of him in his military and police uniform were displayed on the screen. Minamyer spoke of his service in the Iraq War
, as a special deputy of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, and on the boards of the Indian Hill Exempted Village School District
and Great Oaks Joint Vocational District. "The choice is clear" he stated, emphasizing his background rather than issues or the other candidates.
The other Republicans
The remaining Republican candidates, having far less to spend than their better known rivals, tried to get their name out through yard signs, t-shirts, and meeting the voters at malls, American Legion halls, and parades. Several had web-sites, including Douglas Mink who had the cleverly named "Thinkmink.org" site. The Dayton Daily News
, a Democratic paper, wrote in an editorial that the GOP primary had been "an absolutely mad race to the right" and "it feels like this contest is about who's going to represent right to life and evangelical churches."
The Anderson Township
Republican Club heard all eleven candidates for the nomination speak on June 1
. The audience of over 200 people voted to award only Bob McEwen
and Tom Brinkman
with their most prestigious honor of "highly qualified," while the majority of the pack, including Schmidt, earned the rating of "qualified."
Jean Schmidt won the endorsement of The Cincinnati Enquirer, a newspaper that normally endorses Republican. The paper saluted her record in the Ohio House and her fifteen year record "learning local and regional issues." The paper said Schmidt was what the Second District needed, someone who "advocates for and serves all parts of the district, finds creative solutions, builds coalitions, and keeps a common touch," echoing the promise she made in announcing her campaign. Howard Wilkinson of The Enquirer wrote that Schmidt and McEwen "have been the most aggressive in courting the Christian conservative 'moral values' voters," tactics which led the Dayton Daily News, which has a Democratic editorial position, to lament "an absolutely mad race to the right" and "it feels like this contest is about who's going to represent right to life and evangelical churches."
These are the official final returns as supplied by the Secretary of State. Winners in each county appear in bold
, second-place finishers in italics
. Each candidate's rank overall appears after the name, the rank in each county follows the vote total in parenthesis.
| Steve Austin (10)
|| 0.48% |
| Tom Bemmes (7)
|| 1.50% |
| Tom Brinkman (3)
|| 20.40% |
|Pat DeWine (4)
|| 11.97% |
|Peter Fossett (6)
|| 2.25% |
|Bob McEwen (2)
|| 25.53% |
|Eric Minamyer (5)
|| 4.63% |
|Douglas Mink (11)
|| 0.20% |
|Jeff Morgan (8)
|| 0.88% |
|Jean Schmidt (1)
|| 31.37% |
|David Smith (9)
|| 0.79% |
The Democratic Primary
The primary was held on June 14
. Five candidates qualified for the ballot and one write-in candidate filed after his petitions were rejected for insufficient signatures. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order, followed by their age, hometown, home county, occupation, and prior political experience. Russell Hurley, a barber from Anderson Township, was the first Democrat to enter the race. While he filed papers, his petitions were rejected.
- Paul Hackett, 43, Indian Hill, Hamilton County, lawyer. Former city councilman in Milford, Ohio.
- Arthur Stanley Katz, 82, Mason, Warren County, lawyer. Write-in candidate who had sought judicial office in Los Angeles County, California.
- James John Parker, 37, Waverly, Pike County, health care administrator. First time candidate.
- Charles Sanders, 58, Waynesville, Warren County, insurance salesman. Former mayor of Waynesville, Democratic nominee for this seat in the 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections.
- Jeff Sinnard, 42, Anderson Township, Hamilton County, civil engineer. First time candidate.
- Victoria Wells Wulsin, 51, Indian Hill, Hamilton County, doctor. First time candidate.
The Democratic campaign
The Democratic primary attracted little attention. The obvious candidate was Charles W. Sanders
, who won the nomination in the past four primaries but never got more than 28% of the vote against Portman in the general election. But Sanders, the only black candidate in either primary, had been recalled as Mayor of Waynesville when he charged the village police with racial profiling. He also faced complaints from his constituents that he spent too much time on his Congressional campaigns and meeting high Democratic officials such as Bill Clinton
rather than attending to local issues. Because of redistricting, Sanders no longer lived in the Second District and had not in his last two runs against Portman.
Victoria Wells Wulsin, a doctor from Indian Hill, was the head of a charity, SOTENI International, that was funding an AIDS prevention campaign in Kenya. Her platform was not one that would win many fans in the conservative Second District: pro-choice, pro-gay rights, opposing the Iraq War, and calling for the repeal of the tax cuts that George W. Bush had advocated and Congress had passed.
Jeff Sinnard, a civil engineer who proudly noted he was a "stay-at-home dad", was the most conservative Democrat in the field, quoting the Bible on his web-site and expressing his opposition to gay marriage and abortion: "I endorse a reverence for human life and dignity from conception to natural death."
Many party leaders expressed their gratitude for Sanders for his past service but backed Paul Hackett, an attorney from Indian Hill. Hackett had organized the recall of a councilman in Milford in 1995 and was elected to the council in his place, serving three years. He had also just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, having been on active duty in the Marines in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Democratic parties in Pike, Clermont, and Hamilton Counties all endorsed Hackett. Sanders said that he was not concerned that party leaders were backing Hackett, telling The Cincinnati Enquirer "People out there know me. I may not have the money or the organization, but no one in this race will work harder."
These are the official final returns as supplied by the Secretary of State.
| Paul Hackett
|| 57.12% |
| Arthur Stanley Katz
|| 0.09% |
| James John Parker
|| 4.77% |
|Charles W. Sanders
|| 8.74% |
|| 1.92% |
|Victoria Wells Wulsin
|| 27.35% |
Special general election
, the Democratic nominee for Congress faced Schmidt in the August 2
, 2005 special election
. Hackett was described by The New York Times
as six foot four and "garrulous, profane, and quick with a barked retort or a mischievous joke". Hackett had organized the recall of a councilman in Milford
in 1995 and was elected to the council in his place, serving three years. He had also just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq
and played up his military service in the campaign.
Contesting a Republican district
John Green, a political science
professor at the University of Akron
told USA Today
"It's a real steep uphill climb for Hackett. It is such a Republican district." Jane S. Anderson
, an adjunct professor of political science
at the University of Cincinnati
who has unsuccessfully run for the Cincinnati city council and the Ohio House
as a Democrat, told the Associated Press
- It's definitely worth it to the Democrats to put in the effort if only to keep the party energized. Even if Paul Hackett loses, it is very important for the party for him to do well. It could be seen as a sign of opportunities for Democrats in other GOP strongholds.
Martin Gottlieb of the Dayton Daily News wrote a Republican landslide in the district was "a self-fulfilling prophecy":
- It is so overwhelmingly Republican that Democrats typically don't make a real effort as a party. A candidate puts himself up, but generally it's somebody who has no political strengths and gets no financial contributions or volunteer help to speak of. The campaign gets little attention. And the prophecy gets fulfilled.
National attention on the race
Hackett attracted national attention to what had always been considered a safe Republican district. The New York Times
ran a front-page story on him and articles appeared in USA Today
and The Washington Post
. USA Today
wrote "if Democrats could design a dream candidate to capitalize on national distress about the war in Iraq, he would look a lot like the tall, telegenic Marine Reserve major who finished a seven-month tour of Iraq in March."
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the official Republican Party body that helps candidates for the United States House of Representatives, announced on July 28 it was spending $265,000 for television ads in the Cincinnati market, covering the western part of the district, and $250,000 for ads in the Huntington, West Virginia, market, covering the eastern half. Carl Forti told The Cincinnati Enquirer "we decided to bury him" after Hackett told USA Today, in a story published that morning, "I don't like the son-of-a-bitch that lives in the White House but I'd put my life on the line for him." Forti said the NRCC had "no concern that she will lose. She will not lose."
The NRCC ran commercials noting Hackett had voted for tax increases while on the Milford council and quoting his statement on his website that he would be "happy" to pay higher taxes. The NRCC was silent about Schmidt's own votes to raise taxes, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRCC's counterpart, was not. The DCCC responded with commercials noting that Schmidt had voted to raise the sales tax by 20 % and the excise tax on gasoline by 30 % when she was in the legislature. A mailing to voters by the DCCC reiterated these statements under the headline "Who Voted for the Taft Sales Tax Increase—the Largest in Ohio History?" and asked "can we trust Jean Schmidt to protect middle-class families in Washington?"
After her primary win, Schmidt flew to Washington, D.C.
, to attend fundraisers and have a campaign commercial shot featuring her with George W. Bush
. Having far more money than her opponent, she was able to afford a television campaign and distributed many large campaign signs throughout the district. However, her financial edge diminished as of late July.
Hackett's limited budget had meant his campaign was limited to word of mouth, one-on-one personal campaigning, and yard signs, of which there were many, despite the strong Republican tilt of the district. One tactic to ensure his name was seen was Hackett's campaign affixing signs to all of the overpasses of I-71 in eastern Hamilton County.
However, with the help of Democrats from across the nation, Hackett raised several hundred thousand dollars in the closing weeks of the campaign. One main reason Democrats have decided to rally around Hackett was that, had he won, he would have been the first veteran of the 2003 invasion of Iraq to serve in Congress. Late in the campaign Schmidt claimed Mark Kirk, Republican Congressman from Illinois was the first Congressman to serve in Iraq, but Kirk said he had never actually been on tour in Iraq.
State and national endorsements
Schmidt won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association
, which frustrated her opponent, a long-time NRA member. She also won the endorsements of the International Association of Fire Fighters
, the National Federation of Independent Businesses
, the National Homebuilders Association
, the Ohio Taxpayers Association, the Ohio Small Business PAC, and the Ohio Farm Bureau
Schmidt also won the endorsements of the Southern Ohio Board of Realtors
and the Fraternal Order of Police
Queen City Lodge #69.
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes , a Cincinnati-based group founded by Tom Brinkman (who lost the GOP primary to Schmidt), began running ads in the last week of July urging voters to skip the election. COAST's president, Jim Urling, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that this might help elect Hackett, but "we think it will be easier to remove a Democrat next year than an incumbent Republican posing as a conservative."
For the general election, the Democratic Dayton Daily News endorsed Hackett. The Daily News said Schmidt's attacks on Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich–Schmidt had asked "what kind of men do we have in Washington representing us right now? One refuses to back the president and the other is crying on national television"–were "remarkably classless" and "seemed to be saying that voters who like legislators who exercise occasional independence from their party should not vote for her." The Cincinnati Post also endorsed Hackett. It noted Schmidt is the latest in a line of "Republican patricians" and "likely to be a dependable vote for the Bush administration."
The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Republican paper, wrote Hackett "is an attractive candidate with many qualities to admire" but endorsed Schmidt. The Enquirer conceded Schmidt "has a troubling tendency to offer superficial answers on issues she may not have carefully studied. Some of her comments can lack tact, and she relies too often on anecdotal evidence to prove a point," but endorsed her:
- Schmidt knows the district very well, having almost a "file-card" memory to recall details about people, places and issues she's had experience with on the local level . . . she's a quick learner who knows how to make deals and get things done. Even in her relatively short time in Columbus, she proved effective in passing legislation to address her district's concerns.
Controversy arose over whether Schmidt had failed to list gifts received when she was in the Ohio General Assembly
on her financial disclosure statements.
Another controversy was her ties to Tom Noe
, a major player in the Coingate
scandal. Schmidt initially denied ever meeting Noe, but Hackett produced minutes of a 2002
Ohio Board of Regents meeting attended by Schmidt. Noe was a member of the board at the time.
The election was given major national attention by the television networks and other observers despite its restricted locality. Throughout the night, as returns came in, political watchers and bloggers zeroed in on the election as an indicator of American political opinion shifts.
Many predictions were made everywhere, but as this district had always been a Republican stronghold, most projected a Schmidt win, even though polling was showing the race was getting tight.
General election results
Schmidt won by a narrow margin of 3.5%, receiving 59,671 votes to Hackett's 55,886 votes, the worst showing of any Republican in the district since 1974, but which made her the second Republican woman elected to Congress from Ohio in her own right (behind Deborah Pryce
) and the first woman to represent southwestern Ohio in Congress. Schmidt in her victory speech late on election night declared
- 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 gentlemen, we passed that test.
Howard Wilkinson wrote in The Cincinnati Enquirer the morning after the election "the fact that Paul Hackett made it a very close election is nothing short of astounding . . . com[ing] close to pulling off a monumental political upset." Hackett won in the eastern, rural counties of Pike, Scioto, Brown, and Adams, but Schmidt won in the populous western counties of Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren, closer to Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Post editorialized Hackett's success in the eastern counties was in part from "the increasingly desperate struggle in rural areas to provide enough decent jobs for those who want them."
These are the final certified numbers as reported on the Ohio Secretary of State's website
| Jean Schmidt
|| 59,671 |
| Paul Hackett
| James J. Condit, Jr.
|James E. Constable, Jr.
After the election
Implications for Ohio elections
Following the election, many Democrats hailed the election as showing the weakness of Ohio's Republican party, which has been in control of Ohio state government for a decade, and public unhappiness with President Bush's policies. Hamilton County Democratic chairman Timothy Burke was delighted. "Paul was very critical of this president in a district that Bush carried easily last November, yet she barely hung on to win. There's a clear signal in that," he told The Cincinnati Post
on election night. The Clermont County Democratic chairman, Dave Lane, told the Dayton Daily News
"Here we are in the reddest of red districts and it was very, very close."
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee claimed in a press release Hackett's strong showing meant trouble for Mike Dewine's reelection campaign in 2006, especially since his son Pat had lost the Republican primary for the seat.
Ohio Republican Party political director Jason Mauk said: ""To the extent that voters in that district were sending a message to the Republican Party at the state or national level, we have heard that message and we will continue to listen to their concerns."
Peter W. Bronson, a conservative columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer, wrote "Hackett's surprising finish was less a repudiation of Bush than a repudiation of Ohio Governor Bob Taft, whose name is now officially radioactive poison." Bronson admitted Hackett "ran a strong campaign" but said he did so well only because of "the ugly primary" on the Republican side, fears that Schmidt was "another Taft RINO" (i.e. "Republican in name only") and apathy by Republican voters, not dissatisfaction with Bush or Republicans in general.
John Nichols of the Madison Capital Times in Wisconsin saw it differently. "The district had been so radically gerrymandered by Republican governors and legislators that it was all-but-unimaginable that a Democrat could ever be competitive there" and that Hackett, "a smart telegenic Iraq War veteran", had been "swiftboated" in the final days of the campaign by "Republican operatives and right-wing talk radio hosts".
As a measure, perhaps, of both Schmidt's unpopularity, and a growing anti-Republican trend in Ohio due to the unpopularity of Bush and Ohio Governor Bob Taft, Schmidt defeated Victoria Wells Wulsin, the second-place finished in the 2005 Democratic primary, by an even smaller margin than that by which she had defeated Hackett in 2005. In addition, Democrats swept the statewide races for US Senate, governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, state treasurer and state auditor, while winning the seat of former Republican congressman Bob Ney in Ohio's 18th District. Republicans did manage to win closely contested races in Ohio's 1st, 2nd and 15th Districts.
Implications for national elections
The DSCC also claimed that "If Ohio is a bellwether state for next year's midterm elections, things don't look too good for the Republicans." Republicans said the election meant nothing of the sort. "There is no correlation between what happens in a special election, where turnout is very low and you have circumstances that just aren't comparable to an election that happens on an Election Day in an election year," Brian Nick of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
told The Cincinnati Post
The Columbus Dispatch referred to "the trauma of barely winning a Congressional district long dominated by Republicans" and quoted an anonymous source in the Republican party claiming "there is not a tougher environment in the country than Ohio right now. There is kind of a meltdown happening." Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report told the Dispatch "Ohio becomes the microcosm for the debate Democrats are trying to have nationally" and Democrats would argue in future campaigns "'See what happens when one party rules too long, see what happens with corruption and insider influence.'" Her boss, Charlie Cook, told The Los Angeles Times Hackett's "rubber stamp" charge had resonated with Ohio voters.
Mark Steyn, a conservative Canadian columnist, wrote in the Irish Times "Paul Hackett was like a fast-forward version of the John Kerry campaign" who "artfully neglected to mention the candidate was a Democrat." Steyn claimed that Democratic efforts to present Hackett's run as a success for the party were absurd.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned Republicans that the election was a warning sign for the 2006 midterms and that while they should not yet panic, they should "think" before it was too late.
Ultimately the Democrats would make significant gains in the 2006 midterm elections, gaining 30 seats in the U.S. House and six in the Senate, and gaining control of both chambers.
- Cindi Andrews. "Sheriff calls for DeWine to resign commission seat." The Cincinnati Enquirer. April 6, 2005. 1C. (Sheriff Leis calls for DeWine to quit)
- Jim Bebbington. "Election board rules petitions of 3 invalid for 2nd District primary". Dayton Daily News. May 13, 2005. B2. (Candidates certified)
- "Former Congressman To Seek Portman's Seat". CongressDaily. April 15, 2005. 6. (McEwen to run in Second District)
- Lori Kurtzman. "Barber, D-Anderson Twp., also wants Portman seat". The Cincinnati Enquirer. April 17, 2005. 1C. (Democrat Russell Hurley)
- "2nd District Candidates". The Cincinnati Enquirer. May 29, 2005. C2. (Profiles of all the candidates)
- "Jean Schmidt". The Cincinnati Enquirer. June 8, 2005. C2.
- "Paul L. Hackett III". The Cincinnati Enquirer. June 8, 2005. C2.
- Malia Rulon. "If dollars were votes, Pat DeWine would win". The Cincinnati Enquirer. June 8, 2005. A1. (Campaign finance reports)
- "Tom Brinkman". The Cincinnati Enquirer. June 8, 2005. C2.
- Bill Sloat and Stephen Koff. "Will family values hurt campaign? Pat DeWine’s private life turning off some voters". The Plain Dealer. June 12, 2005. A1. (DeWine and conservative voters)
- Howard Wilkinson. "Boehner endorses McEwen in 2nd". The Cincinnati Enquirer. June 8, 2005. C2. (Info on McEwen, Hackett's endorsements)
- Howard Wilkinson. "Candidates' ad blitz goes from radio to TV". The Cincinnati Enquirer. May 19, 2005. 2C. (Advertising by candidates)
- Howard Wilkinson. "Kemp's for McEwen, but 2nd choice is DeWine". The Cincinnati Enquirer. May 21, 2005. B4. (Jack Kemp campaigns for McEwen in 2005)
- Howard Wilkinson. "McEwen displays his Reagan 'cred'". The Cincinnati Enquirer. June 1, 2005. C2. (Meese campaigns for him; DeWine on his lobbying)
- Howard Wilkinson. "Schmidt has had lifelong drive to succeed". The Cincinnati Enquirer. July 24, 2005. E1, E5.
- Howard Wilkinson. "Sense of duty, purpose drive Hackett". The Cincinnati Enquirer. July 24, 2005. E1, E5.