Benton quits GOP primary in race to challenge Murray

June 5, 2010

By Joseph Weber, The Washington Times

Washington Senate candidate Don Benton has quit the Republican primary to give establishment-backed Dino Rossi a clear path to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in November.

“I have decided to do what is best for my party, my country and for my fellow Washingtonians,” Mr. Benton, a state senator, said Thursday in a video announcement on his Facebook page.

He made the decision just nine days after Mr. Rossi, a two-time gubernatorial candidate, announced his entrance into the race and hours after Mr. Rossi said he has already raised $600,000 for his campaign.

Mr. Benton’s decision comes as no surprise, considering Mr. Rossi, 50, has the backing of Capitol Hill Republicans and had the likely potential to thin the field of at least 16 party candidates before the Aug. 16 primary.

Still, Mr. Benton maintained late last month that he was “in this race to win.”

He said Thursday the best way for Republicans to defeat Mrs. Murray, a three-term incumbent and member of the Senate Democratic leadership, was to consolidate resources.

The most recent average of polls by the website Real Clear Politics shows Mrs. Murray, 59, leading Mr. Rossi by 3 percentage points.

Mr. Rossi, a former state senator, lost the state’s 2004 gubernatorial race to Christine Gregoire by the smallest margin in the history of U.S. governor races — 129 votes in out of more than 2.8 million ballots cast.

Former Washington Redskins player and afalfa farmer Clint Didier, 51, remains in the race. He has positioned himself as an outsider candidate with the backing of some “tea party” groups and recently won the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

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