For more than three decades, Ohio's 2nd Congressional District has been represented by men who may be fairly described as Republican patricians. We don't mean that in a pejorative sense. Rob Portman, like Willis Gradison and William Keating before him, adhered to standards all too rare in Congress. They were policy-oriented pragmatists inclined toward the money issues: tax policy, health care, retirement security, economics.
Next Tuesday voters in the 2nd District will go to the polls in a special election to decide who will fill the unexpired term of Portman, who resigned to become the U.S. trade representative.
The June 14 primary produced two capable, and competitive, candidates: Jean Schmidt, a Republican, and Paul Hackett, a Democrat.
They share certain similarities.
Both are products of financially secure families - Schmidt's father was a builder and entrepreneur in Clermont County; Hackett's father was an engineer and manufacturer's representative who settled in Indian Hill.
Both are athletes - Schmidt is an accomplished marathon runner, Hackett ran track before he became a U.S. Marine.
Both also have long records of public service, albeit in different ways.
Schmidt served as a township trustee for 10 years before winning election in 2000 to the Ohio House of Representatives. There she served for four years before giving up the seat to run for the Ohio Senate - a race she lost, in a recount, by just 22 votes.
Schmidt has also held a variety of civic and political posts, and serves on the governing boards of such entities as the Clermont County Library, Clermont Mercy Hospital Foundation, the Live Oaks/Great Oaks Business Industry Partnership Council and Greater Cincinnati Right to Life.
Hackett's public service revolves around the Marine Corps. In 1982 he enlisted in a reserve officers program while he was a student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He completed law school at Cleveland State before starting full-time active duty in 1989. He continued in the active reserves after returning in 1992 to Cincinnati, where he practiced law in a small firm before launching a solo practice in 1994. Hackett served on Milford City Council from 1995-98; he stepped down after purchasing what he describes as the oldest house in Indian Hill - a recently-renovated, 200-year-old stone structure on the banks of the Little Miami River.
Last year Hackett re-enlisted in the Marine active reserves; he went in with the rank of major and served in Iraq with a governance support team, where part of his job involved organizing convoys to bring money and supplies from Baghdad to Iraqis serving in the regional government.
In terms of their ideology and their approach to issues, Schmidt and Hackett present sharp differences.
Schmidt, from what we can discern, would likely be a dependable vote for the Bush administration, particularly its foreign policy and Iraq. In this campaign she has allied herself with the president, as she did earlier to Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and before that to former House Speaker Larry Householder. Her approach to policy issues is incremental, except perhaps concerning taxes. She seems generally to favor supply side economics, and wants to make President Bush's personal income taxes permanent and get rid of the estate, capital gains and alternative minimum taxes entirely. She supports incentives to encourage small businesses to offer health insurance, greater reliance on ethanol as a fuel source and a prohibition against Congress' use of Social Security funds for general government operations.
Hackett, in our view, is a gust of fresh air. If we had to put a label on him, it would be Libertarian Democrat. He says what he thinks and doesn't seem to have much use for the orthodoxy, or the partisanship, of either party. He doesn't want the government telling him what kinds of guns he can own, nor does he want it interfering in family or medical decisions or taking away civil liberties in the name of fighting terror. He regards Social Security more as an insurance program than a retirement savings plan, but wants to put it on a sound footing and would raise the earnings ceiling if necessary to do so.
If elected, he notes, he would be the only member of Congress with direct military experience in Iraq - which, he says, is a fight we should end as soon as possible. He wants to finish the job and get out, and he wants the United States to stop holding hands with Pakistan and to get serious about tracking down those responsible for the 9-11 attacks.
We like Hackett's candor. We're impressed with the freshness of his ideas. We believe his experience shows him to be someone who is action-oriented.
We endorse Hackett for the 2nd District seat.