Politics Extra
Enquirer reporters give the scoop on what your politicians are doing

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Meanwhile, in Warren County...

Enquirer reporter Janice Morse, jmorse@enquirer.com, filed this report from Warren County:

Warren County Republicans on Friday fell short of Gov. Bob Taft's request for a trio of candidates for a vacant judgeship.

Only two hopefuls stepped forward -- both white male Republican lawyers in a predominantly Republican county.

Taft will be choosing between Lebanon attorney Jay Revelson, who ran unsuccessfully for a county court job in 2004, and Joe Kirby, who for 10 months has been filling the job Revelson wants.

Whomever Taft chooses will take over judicial duties of Dallas Powers, the 71-year-old jurist who resigned in disgrace last year after he was convicted of some lower-level charges in a seedy sexual-harassment scandal that some labeled as "disorder in the court." Dare we say he was disrobed? Nah.

In other GOP action during a two-hour meeting at the county court in Lebanon, local Republicans chose David Fornshell, a lawyer and Blue Ash prosecutor who lost his bid for Warren County prosecutor in 2004, as their recommendation for a Board of Elections slot. The Ohio Secretary of State will have to decide whether Fornshell gets the job Stella Hagemeyer is leaving.

When she first started the job more than three decades ago, the youthful-looking Fornshell may have been reading about Dick and Jane. Still, the party faithful admire Fornshell for his work with the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, and they chose him over Hagemeyer's pick: Procter & Gamble retiree Barbara Franco, by a vote of 62-52.

Schmidt hires local vet

A combat-wounded Iraq war veteran from Union Township has been hired by Rep. Jean Schmidt to help other veterans navigate the VA health care system.

Paul Brondhaver, recently retired from the Ohio National Guard’s 216th Engineer Battalion, said he would work eight-to-10 hours a week, mostly from his Union Township home, assisting other returning Iraq veterans who need help claiming their VA benefits.

“I’m kind of the pioneer from my generation because I’ve already had to figure out the VA medical system for myself,’’ said the 37-year-old Brondhaver, who was severely injured in July 2004 when his Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. One of his fellow soldiers from the 216th was killed; and Brondhaver was left with over 300 pieces of metal in his body.

Brondhaver said that veterans who call Schmidt’s office for help will be referred to him.
“I can get them through the red tape and not only tell them what office to contact, but what person in that office they should talk to,’’ said Brondhaver, who said he would keep his full-time job with the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. “

I can do that because I’ve done it for myself.’’

Brondhaver said he doesn’t see his part-time work for a member of Congress as a political job.
“I would have done this for a Democrat, if one had asked me,’’ Brondhaver said.

Strickland racks up another

With an endorsement this week from the Adams County Democratic Party, the list of county party organizations that have endorsed Rep. Ted Strickland’s bid to become the Democratic nominee for Ohio governor has grown to 28.
Three other southwest Ohio county party organizations have endorsed the Lisbon congressman’s candidacy – Warren, Brown and Clinton.
Most of the county parties that have endorsed Strickland are small, rural counties and all but 10 of them have been represented by Strickland in Congress.
The largest county party organizations that have endorsed Strickland are Lake County, a suburban county east of Cleveland, and Stark County, home to the city of Canton.
Strickland is considered the front-runner in what is shaping up to be a three-candidate race in the May 2 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Former state representative Bryan Flannery of Lakewood is expected to file petitions by the Feb. 16 candidate filing deadline. State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, D-Shaker Heights, announced his candidacy this week.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

New leader at Cincinnati Public Services

Daryl Brock, former director the Cincinnati Public Services Department, has been transferred to the city Parks Department, where he will help in developing recycling programs. Steve Bailey, the city’s traffic engineer, will run the Public Services Department in the interim.

Hackett adds Butland to campaign

Paul Hackett, the Iraq war veteran and Indian Hill lawyer who is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, announced today that he's hired longtime Ohio Democratic operative Dale Butland to his campaign.

*UPDATE: Butland also is a spokesman and political advisor to Jerry Springer, a former Cincinnati mayor and host of a TV show. Springer had breifly considered a run against Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, before deciding against it in 2003. Also note correction Hackett's campaign just made to the below release.

Hackett faces Rep. Sherrod Brown of Lorain in northern Ohio in the Democratic primary March 2. The winner would challenge two-term Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville.

Hackett's campaign sent out this news release today:

TOLEDO, OH - Paul Hackett, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and Iraq War veteran, announced today the addition of Dale Butland to his campaign team as a general consultant and senior advisor. Butland brings 25 years of experience working in the trenches of Ohio politics to the campaign.

"It's fantastic to have Dale fighting with us in our campaign for real change," Paul Hackett said. "He is committed to this campaign for all the right reasons; fixing the mess in Iraq, cleaning up Washington through real reform and making sure that all Ohioans can take care of their families."

Butland served as Senator John Glenn's Ohio chief of staff and has experience at all levels of government. He has been at the helm of various Ohio campaigns in multiple capacities - from consultant to communications director to campaign manager. He also enjoys the distinction of being the last campaign manager to win a statewide election in Ohio for U.S. Senate or Governor.

"Every once in a while, someone like Paul Hackett comes along," Butland said. "In a year when voters are fed up with scandal, career politicians and business-as-usual politics, Paul is a breath of fresh air. I've worked in Ohio politics for over 25 years, and I've seen few candidates who can match his honesty, authenticity, and willingness to give straight answers."

Butland was impressed with Paul's service in the Iraq war, and truly believes that Paul has what it takes to win this race for the U.S. Senate.

"Paul Hackett is a genuine American hero who will serve his country as ably in the U.S. Senate as he did in Iraq. If you think it's time ordinary Ohioans had a voice in Washington, Paul is your candidate. He'll be nobody's Senator but yours."

For more on Hackett's campaign, click here.
For more on Brown's campaign, click here.
For more on DeWine's campaign, click here.

Fast, Faster & Fastest

For those who think last week's Cincinnati City Council meeting ended quickly at 12 minutes, this week's meeting was only half that.

Council unanimously approved of 38 agenda items in six mintues, with time to spare. Council member Laketa Cole again took a minute or two to talk about the Neighborhod Summit coming up Feb. 4.

The brevity astounded Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, and left him speechless. "Mr. Mayor," he said, "isn't there something else we can talk about?"

Brinkman also might challenge Schmidt

A day after Bob McEwen, a former congressman from southwest Ohio, announced that he would challenge Rep. Jean Schmidt in the 2nd Congressional District, Ohio state Rep. Tom Brinkman of Cincinnati said he's also considering a run.

Schmidt beat both McEwen and Brinkman in last year's 11-person GOP primary with 28 percent of the vote. McEwen got 27 percent, Brinkman 21 percent.

Brinkman, who spoke to the Enquirer by phone, said that he had urged McEwen to take on Schmidt last year, after the freshman congresswoman was booed off the House floor on Nov. 18 for insinuating that Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated former Marine, was a "coward" for wanting to pull troops out of Iraq.

"I think it's so important that we remove Jean Schmidt from office. She's an embarrassment," Brinkman said. "I encouraged him (McEwen) to get into it before other people make plans."

Although McEwen has been rumored to be planning a run against Schmidt for months, he didn't make it official until Wednesday. By then, Brinkman had already sent out a 4-page letter to 2,600 people who contributed to his campaign last year asking them if they'd support him again.

"The problem that we had eight months ago was that he (McEwen) strolled into the race," Brinkman said. "To me, it's more important that we beat her than I go to Congress, so I'm going to weigh who stands a better chance to beat her."

Brinkman's letter asking people to check "Yes, take her on" or "No, leave her alone" went out Jan. 8, before the U.S. postage rate increased from 37 cents a letter to 39 cents.

"Well, you know, I watch my pennies," Brinkman said with a chuckle, adding that he'll decide whether to take on Schmidt and McEwen by the end of January or the first week of February, before Ohio's Feb. 16 candidate filing deadline.

"The people out there are sick of her," Brinkman said of Schmidt. "The dislike of Jean is so broad ... I just think people are done with her."

If only animals could vote...

According to the Humane Society of the United States, both Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, and northern Ohio Rep. Sherrod Brown, his possible Democratic opponent in this year's Senate race, are animal advocates.

The animal-loving group announced today that DeWine will receive an award for requesting funding to speed development and approval of alternative chemical testing methods that can reduce the use of animals. According to the group, such alternative methods for determining toxicity are often faster, cheaper, and more scientifically sophisticated than animal testing, leading to better results as well as less animal suffering.

The group also praised Brown for a bill he authored that would phase out the non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock production, which the group says supports overcrowding and inhumane conditions at factory farms and contribute to drug-resistant bacterial diseases.

DeWine and Brown also were honored for receiving a score of 100 on the Humane Society scorecard for 2005. The group scored lawmakers for their votes on horse slaughter, their co-sponsorship of bills to crack down on animal fighting, provide better oversight at mass dog breeding "puppy mills," and stopping the sale of "downed" livestock who are too sick or injured to walk, their signing of a letter requesting funding for enforcement of animal welfare laws, and their leadership on animal legislation.

"We are tremendously grateful to these lawmakers for their leadership and support for animal protection policies," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "In order to pass humane laws, we need humane lawmakers."

Northern Ohio Reps. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat, and Steve LaTourette, a Republican, also were recognized by the group as being animal advocates.

Brown faces Indian Hill lawyer Paul Hackett in the Democratic primary for the Senate.

Schmidt backs Boehner for majority leader


Below is Rep. John Boehner's latest list of public supporters, updated as of this morning with a commitment from Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township.

Schmidt: "I am thrilled to be able to support John Boehner for Majority Leader. He is a good friend and represents the district that borders mine. I believe that John would provide the kind of leadership required to produce results we need."

Schmidt's support had been uncertain because Boehner backed her opponent, Bob McEwen, in the 11-person GOP primary and Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who is Boehner's biggest competitor, had hosted a fundraiser for Schmidt.

Although McEwen is again challenging Schmidt for her seat, Boehner has said that he'll be supporting Schmidt this time around.

Here is who Boehner says is supporting him:

1. Gresham Barrett (SC)
2. Charles Boustany (LA)
3. Steve Buyer (IN)
4. Paul Gillmor (OH)
5. Melissa Hart (PA)
6. Dave Hobson (OH)
7. Sam Johnson (TX)
8. John Kline (MN)
9. Ray LaHood (IL)
10. Tom Latham (IA)
11. Thad McCotter (MI)
12. Anne Northup (KY)
13. Devin Nunes (CA)
14. Steve Pearce (NM)
15. Jim Ramstad (MN)
16. Jim Saxton (NJ)
17. Pete Sessions (TX)
18. Mike Simpson (ID)
19. Pat Tiberi (OH)
20. Ed Whitfield (KY)
21. Howard "Buck" McKeon (CA)
22. Steve Chabot (OH)
23. Mike Oxley (OH)
24. Mike Castle (DE)
25. Jon Porter (NV)
26. Gary Miller (CA)
27. Vern Ehlers (MI)
28. Steve LaTourette (OH)
29. Lee Terry (NE)
30. Ken Calvert (CA)
31. Kenny Marchant (TX)
32. Wayne Gilchrest (MD)
33. Howard Coble (NC)
34. William Jenkins (TN)
35. Mike Turner (OH)
36. Chris Cannon (UT)
37. Virginia Foxx (NC)
38. Don Manzullo (IL)
39. Todd Platts (PA)
40. Chris Chocola (IN)
41. Doc Hastings (WA)
42. Cathy McMorris (WA)
43. Joe Knollenberg (MI)
44. Jean Schmidt (OH)
45. Judy Biggert (IL)
46. Richard Pombo (CA)

DID ANYONE ELSE NOTICE that Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, who has been implicated in a Washington bribery scandal involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has repeatedly been left off this list? Ney has said publicly for more than a week that he's backing Boehner, but he's NOT listed here by Boehner, who has been trying to distinguish himself as the reform candidate by pushing for additional travel, gift and lobbying regulations.

They get paid how much?

Joe Deters may have a lot of explaining to do when he gets home tonight.
Deters, an attorney, is Hamilton County's Prosecutor -- and that government's highest-paid elected official.

"Don't you dare print my salary," Deters said.

"I've been telling (wife) Missy I make $65,000 a year," he said before chuckling. He actually earns $118,158.

Deters edges out Coroner O'Dell Owens, a medical doctor, as the highest-paid, non-judicial elected official in Hamilton County. His salary is $113,358.

The lowest-paid Hamilton County elected official is Recorder Rebecca Groppe at $68,186 annually.

Ohio law mandates how much each elected official is paid. Those salaries have been updated for 2006.

Hamilton County's other elected, non-judicial officials and their 2006 annual salaries are:

  • Prosecutor -- $118,158
  • Coroner -- $113,358
  • Engineer Bill Brayshaw -- $99,696
  • Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann -- $96,395.75
  • Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. -- $95,975
  • Auditor Dusty Rhodes -- $90,279
  • Commissioner Phil Heimlich -- $83,287
  • Commissioner Todd Portune -- $83,287
  • Commissioner Pat DeWine -- $83,287
  • Recorder -- $68,186
Judges are paid by both the county and the state.
Here are the combined annual salaries of Hamilton County judges:

  • Municipal Court -- $109,150.
  • Common Pleas, Probate, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court -- $116,110

Boehner, Shadegg call on Blunt to debate

Here's the latest on the race to replace former Majority Leader Tom DeLay as the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House...

Reps. John Boehner of West Chester and John Shadegg of Arizona today called on Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who is the acting majority leader and current majority whip, to make a media appearance with them to discuss the issues in the race for Majority Leader.

Boehner said this in a news release just e-mailed to reporters:

"It is our understanding Roy has now declined invitations from two nationally-televised Sunday morning news programs to appear with us and directly
discuss the issues facing the future of our Republican majority.

"It's unfortunate that at a time when House Republicans are having a serious conversation about our future, the candidate who claims to be the frontrunner has so far refused to engage in a debate about how we will reform the House and change the status quo.

"Our members, our party, and our country deserve to hear all of the candidates in an open and honest debate about their vision for leading the House and helping
retain and expand our Republican majority."

The lawmaker who gets 216 of the 231 House Republicans to vote for them on a secret ballot Feb. 2 wins the race. Blunt has claimed that he has enough support to win, but Boehner also says he has nearly 100 and that he's not backing down.

New Dem chair to visit Butler County

From the Butler County Democratic Party:

The new Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, Chris
, will visit the headquarters of the Butler County Democratic
Party on Monday, Jan. 23 at 5:00 pm. The public is invited.

Butler County Democratic Chairman Dan Gattermeyer said
that he is "excited and encouraged that Chairman Redfern recognizes that Butler
County is an important county for the upcoming elections. He asked to meet
with us and the outreach on his part shows that the Democratic Party is making
significant advances to bring better government to Ohio."

Redfern was elected Chairman in December 2005. He has been an
Ohio state legislator since 1999 and is a former Ottawa County Commissioner.
Butler County Democratic Party headquarters is located in Hamilton at 222 High
Street, Suite 220, phone (513) 896-5201.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's official: McEwen to challenge Schmidt - UPDATED

Bob McEwen, the former Republican congressman who ran second to Jean Schmidt in last June’s 2nd District special primary election, said Wednesday he will take her on again in the May 2 GOP primary.

Surrounded by about 30 supporters at the Mercy HealthPlex in Anderson Township, McEwen emphasized his experience as a six-term congressman and said he is running because "this is not a moment in our history that rewards good intentions. More is needed from our representatives."

Read more from the Enquirer's Howard Wilkinson, who was at the announcement, in Wednesday's online edition of the Enquirer.

*NEW: Read Wilkinson's story in Thursday's Enquirer here.

Here's what Schmidt chief of staff Barry Bennett had to say about McEwen in the campaign release he sent out to reporters today:

"Bob McEwen announcing his candidacy at a hospital is fitting. His campaign is already in critical condition. He starts twenty points down in the polls. He runs against an incumbent endorsed by the state and national Republican Party organizations, the White House, and a whole host of conservative causes. This just isn’t an up hill campaign it’s up Mt Everest," Barry Bennett said.

And, read for yourself:
- McEwen's news release announcing his run for Congress.
- McEwen's prepared speech of his announcement.
- McEwen's response to the Schmidt poll.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mallory's chief of staff

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory has appointed Carla Walker to serve as his Chief of Staff. Walker, a Cincinnati native, will serve as senior aide and liaison for the Mayor.

Walker worked ad the U.S. Deputy Field Director for DATA, an international advocacy organization founded by U2 front man Bono, in Washington, D.C. She has extensive governmental and political experience in Ohio and Cincinnati having previously served as the Finance Director for the Ohio Senate Minority Caucus, the Executive Director for the Hamilton County Democratic Party, and the Communications Director and Campaign Manager for former Mayor Roxanne Qualls.

Mallory's screening service

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory wants to hear about all press inquiries, just not first-hand.

Jason Barron, Mallory's communications director, sent out an e-mail to the media Tuesday clairifying the procedure for getting the mayor on the phone. In a nutshell: Call Barron first.

Here's the e-mail:

Good afternoon:

It has come to my attention that there is some uncertainty surrounding
the proper procedure for media inquiries to the Mayor's office. I want ensure
that the proper process is clear so that all media inquires are handled in a
prompt and efficient manner. In order to reach the Mayor, all media inquiries
should be directed to me. I can be reached by phone at 513-352-5356(office)or e-mail at jason.barron@cincinnati-oh.gov

In the past, it has been possible to reach the Mayor through a variety
of phone numbers. In order to ensure efficiency, it will no longer be possible
to reach the Mayor in this way. All requests should come directly to me and I
will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible. Requests to any
phone number beyond the two listed above will not be able to be
addressed. I am here to help, so please feel free to let me know how I can be
of assistance.

Jason Barron
Communications Director
Mark Mallory

Betty Dips Her Oar in the Water

If you were a Republican candidate for Ohio governor and you were running third out of three in the polls, you might find something better to do with your time than butt into the U.S. Senate flap over Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the campaign of state auditor Betty Montgomery couldn't help itself and fired off a press release Tuesday urging the Senate to give Alito a quick up-or-down vote, adding a slap for Senate Democrats for allegedly smearing the judge and trying to delay his confirmation.

Her GOP opponents, Ken Blackwell and Jim Petro weighed in some time ago with words of support for Alito, leaving Montgomery to play catch-up.

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate generally find little to agree on, but they are probably of one mind on the subject of Ohio gubernatorial candidates kibbitzing in their business - they can surely live without the advice of Betty, Ken or Jim.

But the Montgomery statement giving Senate Democrats what-for wasn't really aimed at them - it was aimed at the rather large block of social conservatives who turn out in great numbers in Ohio GOP primaries and who, so far anyway, seem to be committed to Blackwell.

You can't go wrong smacking around Democrats, even from a distance.

Appointment for appointees

Cincinnati councilmembers Leslie Ghiz and Cecil Thomas will likely sit on new committees beginning Thursday.

The city's Rules and Government Operations Committee unanimously approved Ghiz's appointment to the Audit Committee and Thomas' appointment to the Finance Committee Tuesday morning.

The full city council will vote on the appointments Thursday. Council is meeting Thursday instead of Wednesday this week because of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday pushed all meetings back one day.

Both appointments are expected to be approved.

McEwen has an announcement!

Former Congressman Bob McEwen, who told the Enquirer last week that he planned to formally kick off his campaign against fellow Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District this week, said Tuesday that he has an annoucment to make.

Here's what McEwen e-mailed to reporters on Tuesday and put up on his campaign Web site:

Cincinnati - Bob McEwen will hold a press conference regarding his decision on running for the 2nd Congressional District.

Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: Mercy HealthPlex, 7495 State Road, Cincinnati, 45255
(Anderson Twp.), Main Floor, Amphitheatre 1

Following his announcement, Mr. McEwen will be available for questions.

So is this McEwen's formal campaign kick-off that he alluded to in his conversation with the Enquirer last week?

Answer, from McEwen's new press secretary, Michael Harlow: "You'll find out tomorrow."

Check back here at Politics Extra for the details after Wednesday's announcement - and read even more in Thursday's Enquirer.

Chief Cameraman

Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher, accustomed to having news cameras focused on him, had some fun with the media Tuesday by peering through a television camera and pretending to be a camerman.

"What do you guys look at through there?" he asked. "It's kind of like walking into the women's restroom -- I've always wondered what it looks like in there."

One camerman quipped it's more like looking through a gun scope.

"I know," Streicher said. "I've been there."

Lindner's largesse

As commissioners seek to make Hamilton County government more efficient, a task force they empaneled to study the issue has been looking at how other governments have accomplished that.

Many of those task force members have asked about visiting those other counties -- counties home to Miami, Fla.; Phoenix, Ariz., and Charlotte, N.C.

Commissioner Phil Heimlich today told the task force he recently talked to prominent Cincinnati businessman and current owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Carl Lindner, and Lindner has agreed to donate $25,000 to the task force for expenses.

Heimlich said the goal was to raise $50,000 for task force expenses.

Commissioner Pat DeWine told the task force today that Hamilton County also "will find some money" for the expenses.

The task force's goal is to identify $25 million in savings from the approximately $1 billion Hamilton County spends annually by making government more efficient, even if it means privatizing some services now provided by the government.

Heimlich's future

Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich announced Monday he wouldn't run for lieutenant governor, choosing insteadchoosing to run for re-election as commissioner.
But that doesn't mean, Heimlich admitted, he will remain commissioner.

"Eventually, in the future I would like to serve at a higher level," Heimlich said, "whether it is for state-wide or other offices."

Heimlich wouldn't comment on questions about him possibly trying to take the Second Congressional seat from fellow Republican Jean Schmidt, of Miami Township.

Schmidt's short term in office has been highlighted by national criticism for her comments about 17-term Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam. After Murtha called for President George Bush to start pulling troops from Iraq, Schmidt suggested that "cowards cut and run. Marines never do."

Hackett said it. And he meant it.

Paul Hackett, who is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, responded late on Monday to the Ohio Republican Party's demand that he apologize for remarks he made to The Columbus Dispatch in a news release that basically tells the ORP to take a hike.

Straight from Hackett's mouth: "I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it."

Hackett was defending his view that gay Americans deserve the same legal rights - like marriage, for example - as every other person in the country. To think that gays deserve less just because they are gay is, as he explained to the Dispatch, "un-American."

In 2004, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Hackett: "Equal justice under the law for all regardless of who they are and how they were born is fundamental to our American spirit and our American freedoms. Any person or group that argues that the law should not apply equally to all Americans is, frankly, un-American."

And that's not all... Hackett also defended remarks he made about the Republican Party being taken over by religious fanatics.

Hackett: "The Republican Party has been hijacked by religious fanatics, who are out of touch with mainstream America. Think of the recent comments by Pat Robertson - a religious fanatic by any measure - that the United States should assassinate a democratically elected leader in Venezuela, and that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment because Sharon wished to trade land for peace."

Hackett continued: "Since the Republican Party has been utterly unable to stand for something positive, they have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, and have pandered to religious fanatics not to vote for something they believe in, but to vote against their fellow Americans with whom they disagree. Those among us who would use religion and politics to divide rather than unite Americans should be ashamed."

Hackett is running against Rep. Sherrod Brown, R-Ohio, for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. The winner of that primary would face Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, in November.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Hackett said ... what?

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett called Monday for Indian Hill lawyer Paul Hackett, who is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, to publicly apologize for "hateful and incendiary remarks about people of faith" that he made recently to The Columbus Dispatch.


So, what did Hackett say?

Here's an excerpt from the article that quotes Hackett:

With succinct coherence, Hackett said: "I'm pro-choice, I'm pro-gay-rights, I'm pro-gun-rights. Call me nuts, but I think they're all based on the same principle and that is we don't need government dictating to us how we live our private lives."

Asked to define being pro-gay-rights, Hackett said anybody who tries to deny homosexuals the same rights, including marriage, as every other citizen is un-American. Are you saying, he was asked, that the 62 percent of Ohioans who voted in November 2004 to constitutionally deny same-sex marriages are un-American?

"If what they believe is that we're going to have a scale on judging which Americans have equal rights, yeah, that's un-American. They've got to accept that. It's absolutely un-American."

Hackett called DeWine a "professional politician" who "is all over the map on issues," and who's afraid to stand up to the "radical religious fundamentalists" controlling the GOP. At that point, Hackett's candor went on steroids.

The Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious fanatics that, in my opinion, aren't a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden and a lot of the other religious nuts around the world," he said. "The challenge is for the rest of us moderate Americans and citizens of the world to put down the fork and spoon, turn off the TV, and participate in the process and try to push back on these radical nuts - and they are nuts."
Bennett said in a release e-mailed to reporters on Monday that Hackett accused the overwhelming majority of Ohioans of being "un-American" because they voted to support a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage. He condemned Hackett’s remarks and called on his counterpart, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, to join him in denouncing the intolerance and demanding a public apology.

Bennett: "Paul Hackett's attempt to compare Christian conservatives to terrorists is abhorrent and completely inappropriate. These intolerant views have no place in the public debate, and I hope his fellow Democrats reject this divisive hate speech. Hackett has shown repeatedly that he will say or do anything to get attention, and it's unfortunate that views like his are embraced by the Democratic Party. I think, Mr. Hackett, you've once again proven who the real 'radical nut' is."


Last year, when Hackett was running against Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, for the 2nd Congressional District, he said Bush was a greater threat to U.S. security than al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Asked about that statement by USA Today, Hackett said: "I've said that I don't like the son-of-a-b---- that lives in the White House but I'd put my life on the line for him."

Boehner: Race not over yet!

Over the weekend Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri sent out a news release claiming that he had secured the votes needed to become the next House majority leader:

WASHINGTON --- House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) today announced that he has the support of more than the 117 Members of the House Republican Conference required to win the post of House Majority Leader.

"I've counted a lot of votes in my seven years in the Whip's office, and this was a well-fought fight on all sides. John Boehner is a great congressman and a good friend. My friend John Shadegg is bringing an important focus to the final days of this race. I look forward to working with both of them as we achieve great results for the American people.

"As I've talked with Members of our conference this week, we've discussed our party's vision for a freer, safer and more prosperous America. Our reform-minded majority will regain the trust of the American people and promote the common sense principles of smarter, not bigger government that is accountable to the people who send us here.

"The healthy debate we're having this month will strengthen us."

With 231 Republican lawmakers in the House, whoever gets 116 votes in a secret election on Feb. 2 will be the one to replace indicted former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, replied to Blunt's claim by sending out his own news release saying that the race is not over yet - and calling on Blunt to step down as House majority whip, the position Blunt currently holds. Here is what Boehner had to say:

"This will be a long campaign, leading up to a secret ballot election. If the claims by Roy's campaign are true, then it is in the best interest of the Republican Conference for him to follow Congressman Shadegg's example and step aside from his post to allow a full and open race for the whip's position.

"Members of our Conference are also entitled to know where and how their next majority leader intends to lead. As of today, I remain the only candidate for the office who has offered a detailed leadership plan and vision for the future of our majority and the reforms we must unite to enact."

On Sunday, Boehner's bid for the No. 2 spot in the House was profiled on the front page of the Enquirer. Read all about it here. Check out the transcript of the Enquirer's interview with Boehner - and listen to audio files of what he had to say - here. Read an editorial about his position here.

Also on Sunday, Boehner appeared on Fox News. Watch Boehner's interview here.

Howard Dean coming to Ohio.

Former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean is coming to Columbus Wednesday to unveil a reform package being introduced by Democratic congressional leaders. It is Dean's first appearance in Ohio since becoming chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Dean plans to join Ohio House and Senate Democrats at a 10 a.m. news conference at the Statehouse "to demonstrate Democrats’ commitment to honest leadership,'' according to John Kohlstrand, spokesman for the House Democrats.

The event coincides with the introduction of reforms in Washington, according to Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.

Democrats plan to highlight efforts to restore honest leadership at all levels of government, Kohlstrand said.

Dean will be joined by Ohio House Democratic Leader Chris Redfern, who is chairman of the state Democratic Party, House Democratic Leader-elect Joyce Beatty of Columbus and Senate Democratic Leader C.J. Prentiss of Cleveland.

Recap: Schmidt's trip to Iraq

If you've been reading the Enquirer, then you know all about Rep. Jean Schmidt's recent jaunt to Bulgaria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

But let's refresh, and go over a few additional details:

The Enquirer first heard from the Miami Township congresswoman last Monday, when she called to say that she was in Bulgaria. It was beautiful - and cold, she said. Schmidt was asked about her visit to Iraq, but she said she hadn't made it to Iraq yet. She also was asked if she was backing Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, for majority leader. Schmdit said she hadn't spoken with Boehner, so she couldn't say.

And that was it. A phone call from half a world away, and no news to report.

Thankfully, Schmidt's office scheduled a conference call on 5 p.m. on Thursday so all the reporters following her trip to Iraq could get the latest. Only the Enquirer and the Post were on the call, so Schmidt made small talk waiting for other reporters to join the call. She described watching the end of the Bengals game on the flight overseas and how she hoped quarterback Carson Palmer will be OK. Finally a reporter from Loveland joined the call and she got going. Only one problem: Schmdit still hadn't been to Iraq. So 30 minutes later, we had all the details we needed on her visit to Bulgaria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but still nothing on Iraq - and no answer on whether she was backing Boehner.

Read the story that followed that phone call here.

Read today's column that also came from that phone call here.

On Saturday, Schmdit called the Enquirer for a third time. She had just spent 15 hours in in Iraq on Friday, during which time she met with top military leaders and soldiers, including several from Ohio. Finally.

Read that story here.

Note that despite Schmidt saying that the troops have enough body armor, a recent analysis from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner said 80 percent of the fatal injuries to Marines in the study might have been prevented by more body armor. Army and Marine Corps generals vowed last week to improve body armor for troops after meeting this week with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

More than 1,500 soldiers and 633 Marines have been killed in Iraq, many by rifle shots or explosions that better armor could have prevented.

Read more about that report and the meeting last week in USA Today here.

Schmidt, who caused a ruckus in the House last November during a debate on withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, said that while she stands by her remarks to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated former Marine, that "cowards cut and run, Marines never do," she has a much better understanding now of the challenges in Iraq.

"Regardless of those statements ... anytime you get to see things first-hand, you get a better perspective," Schmidt said.

Schmidt returned to the U.S. yesterday.

Jerry Springer: The Missing Years

You can't blame the Hamilton County Democratic Forum for inviting Jerry Springer to be featured speaker at the Forum's Feb. 2 meeting; he is sure to draw a crowd, like Pete Rose at a baseball card show.

Such a draw, in fact, that the other featured speaker - newly-elected Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern, gets second billing.

The forum's press release touting the Feb. 2 meeting atOakley's 20th Century Theater includes brief bios of both, but is curiously silent when it comes to describing precisely what Springer has been doing for the last 15 years.

Yes, it describes his days in Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, his stint as Cincinnati's mayor at the age of 33, and his 1980s occupation as a Cincinnati TV anchor.

But, then, the bio skips to the present, and his recent incarnation as a liberal radio talk show host.

No mention of the years as a syndicated TV host specializing in weird sex, gratuitous violence, and general lunacy; no mention of the years he spent dodging chairs flying across the studio as he watched a parade of mouth-breathing guests pummel one another.

It must have all been a dream. A very bad dream.

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