Today, after running a tough campaign, Democratic candidate Paul Hackett lost narrowly to Republican Jean Schmidt. The margin was 3,500 votes out of 112,000 cast.
Obviously, I'm a bit disappointed that he didn't win, but I am also pretty excited about the result. The RNC pumped in half a million dollars and promised to 'bury' Hackett. There was a last minute smear campaign (the Schmidt campaign sent out a press release claiming that Hackett's claim to be running to become the first Iraqi Freedom veteran to serve in the House was false, citing Republican Ron Kirk of Illinois, who was a naval reserve officer; One problem-- Kirk's office denies that he ever served in Iraqi Freedom, and bluntly told that to the Schmidt campaign prior to the press release-- but they released it anyway, knowing that it was a lie). Pity Schmidt: she just won tonight, and she already has at least one member of her own party who doesn't trust her.
To be honest, Hackett made a mistake in calling the President a 'chicken hawk'-- it may be true, but it gave some Republicans who may have been looking a reason to vote against him. Even without all this, we are looking at one of the 'safe' districts. A district that went 65% for Bush last time around (in fact, where the 2004 election was won) and where the last Democrat to run got 28% of the vote.
However, Hackett came close to winning. In fact, he won the four more rural, smaller counties in the district handily, winning nearly two to one in Scioto county, the largest of these, and by solid margins in the others. He lost in the Republican suburbs of Cincinnati, but still won over 40% in even the most Republican areas.
What this really proves is that any congressional district in the country CAN be competitive if we find and field the right candidate. The Democratic Party has committed to filling every ballot slot, and if we recruit and run strong candidates in all of these 'red' districts, the chances are good that we can win at least a few. More to the point, we make it clear that the Democrats are a national party. That is very important, and is the real message of tonight.