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Citing pressure from Democratic Party officials, Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, abruptly ended his candidacy for an Ohio U.S. Senate seat on Monday and said he would drop out of politics altogether. According to Hackett, Democratic leaders, including senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, pushed him to end his Senate bid because they felt he could not topple incumbent Republican senator Mike DeWine.
"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," Hackett told The New York Times. "For me, this is a second betrayal. First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."
Hackett became a dark horse in last year's race for a U.S. representative seat in a heavily Republican Ohio district. Though unsuccessful, he scored an impressive number of votes after criticizing President Bush and the Iraq war. In January of this year, Hackett told an Ohio newspaper that denying gays and lesbians equal rights is un-American.
Democratic leaders are pushing longtime congressman Sherrod Brown for this year's contentious Ohio Senate race, seen as critical to Democrats retaking Congress this fall. Reid wouldn't comment on Hackett's decision, but Phil Singer, a spokesman for Schumer, denied Hackett was forced out of the race. "We've told both Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett that avoiding a primary will make it easier to win the Ohio Senate seat," Singer told the Times. "Obviously, the decision to run is Mr. Hackett's and Mr. Hackett's alone."
Democratic officials claimed the decision to back off Hackett was practical. Brown's war chest tallied $2.37 million by last year, 10 times what Hackett had. But some political pundits questioned the decision to push Hackett out. "Hackett is seen by many as a straight talker, and he became an icon to the liberal bloggers because he says exactly what they have wished they would hear from a politician," political analyst Jennifer Duffy told the Times. "On the other hand, the Senate is still an exclusive club, and the party expects a certain level of decorum that Hackett has not always shown." (Advocate.com)