updated 2/14/2006 10:14:59 AM ET 2006-02-14T15:14:59

Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, a Bush administration critic who had been recruited by top Democrats to run for U.S. Senate, said Tuesday he was dropping his campaign and declared his political career over.

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Hackett said he was pressured by party leaders to drop out of the Senate primary and run again for the House instead.

“I made this decision reluctantly, only after repeated requests from party leaders, as well as behind-the-scenes machinations, that were intended to hurt my campaign,” Hackett said in a statement Tuesday.

The deadline for candidates to file for the May 2 primary is Thursday.

Hackett, a Cincinnati attorney and Marine Reservist, captured national attention last summer by blasting Bush’s war policies, raising huge sums on the Internet and capturing 48 percent of the vote in one of the country’s most conservative House districts. Republican Jean Schmidt won the special election in a tight race.

Hackett had declared his candidacy for Republican Mike DeWine’s Senate seat after it appeared Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown would not run. A few days later, though, Brown declared his Senate candidacy, and national Democrats privately began urging Hackett to step aside.

“For me, this is a second betrayal,” Hackett told The New York Times for its Tuesday editions. “First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me.”

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