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Brown drops out of Senate race, backs Whitehouse

Secretary of State Matt Brown ended his campaign for the U.S. Senate Wednesday, throwing his support behind former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse in the Democratic primary.

"When I began this campaign, it was with the goal of sending another Democrat from Rhode Island to serve in Washington. Today, I am ending my own campaign for United States Senate, but the goal remains the same," he said in a written statement.

"These days, it takes an enormous amount of money to run a Senate campaign, and I simply will not have the resources in the final stretch to run successfully," he added.

Brown pledged his "full support" for Whitehouse.

"Sheldon is a good man who loves his family and state," Brown said. "I will do everything I can to help elect him and I know Sheldon Whitehouse will be a great Senator for Rhode Island," he added

Whitehouse praised Brown and his campaign for their "boldness, energy, vision and conviction" in a written statement.

"Now that the time has come where it makes sense to unify behind one candidate, the strength of Matt's conviction is apparent in his announcement today," he said.

Brown also garnered praise from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"Matt Brown is a class act. His decision today takes us one step closer in our quest to pick up seats in the Senate this year," Schumer said in a written statement.

Brown and Whitehouse both sought the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Lincoln Chafee '75, R-R.I., who is facing his own primary fight with Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey.

Businessman and Marine veteran Carl Sheeler, another candidate in the Democratic primary, criticized Brown's decision to endorse Whitehouse.

"Like most Rhode Island citizens, I am deeply disappointed that Matt Brown, who has positioned himself as a reformer, is now backing the ultimate political insider, Sheldon Whitehouse," Sheeler said in a written statement. "I ask for the vote of Matt's supporters who hold a higher view of what public service should mean."

Brown's campaign fell into disarray last month after Roll Call reported that it directed major donors to give money to three state Democratic parties at the end of 2005. Those parties gave large contributions to Brown's campaign - an apparent evasion of campaign finance laws that triggered an investigation by the Federal Elections Commission.

Brown then announced his campaign manager, Dennis Newman, had left and was replaced by Tim Patterson, Brown's chief of staff in the secretary of state's office. A few weeks ago, another staff shakeup followed, as four key staffers were let go.

As of March 31, Brown had only $35,000 left in his campaign war chest for the primary, having spent much of his money on early television advertising. That was far less than Whitehouse, who had almost $1.4 million left, or Sheeler, who had $211,000 on hand.

Brown initially resisted abandoning his campaign. He said in an April 20 televised statement that "I don't trust the leadership in Washington - Republican or Democrat - with my baby's future. So I'm in this race. I'm in it to win."

But Brown's decision to drop out was "not surprising," said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report in Washington, D.C.

"It was a matter of when he gets out of the race, rather than if he gets out of the race," he said.

Jennifer Duffy, a Rhode Island native and managing editor of the Cook Political Report, said Brown likely made his decision in the last day or so.

"Generally, these decisions are made at the last minute. You sort of have this 'aha!' moment where you realize that this effort is not sustainable," she said.

Duffy said it is unclear who benefits more from Brown's decision: Whitehouse or Chafee.

"Obviously, in the short haul, Whitehouse is helped more. (His campaign) can scrap their primary budget and focus on the general election," she said. "In the long run, perhaps Chafee is helped a little bit, because independents who want to have their voices heard may vote in the Republican primary."



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