The lone Democrat in the race for a new U.S. representative for Georgia’s 9th District is no longer.
Democrat Mike Freeman of Hall County announced Wednesday that he was withdrawing his candidacy, leaving the race void of a Democratic candidate.
In a statement Wednesday, Freeman cited a need to focus on his family.
“This is not a decision I have made lightly, but recent events within my family demand that I leave the business of politics aside and focus on my duties as a husband, father and grandfather,” Freeman said in a statement. “My family has always come first, and that has not and will not change.”
When pressed further, Freeman’s campaign spokesman, Martin Matheny, would not elaborate.
“The statement speaks for itself, and that’s all I’ve got,” Matheny said.
Freeman’s exit leaves the race to be contested between six Republicans and one conservative independent. All are fighting to fill Georgia’s 9th District seat in the House, which won’t be sought by an incumbent candidate for the first time in 18 years.
Former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, resigned from the seat last month, creating the need for a special election. Deal, who was facing an ethics investigation when he resigned, has said he left the post early to focus on his campaign for governor of Georgia.
Freeman was the only Democrat to qualify for special election set for May 11. He also planned to run in the general election for the seat in November.
But on Wednesday, Freeman said he would participate in neither, doing so, he said, with the “deepest sadness.”
“I wish my former opponents in this campaign the best of luck,” Freeman said in a statement. “Over the past months, I’ve gotten to know some of them well, and I know they share a common commitment to serving their nation. Though we may disagree on particulars, I wish them all well.”
Freeman is former chairman of the Hall County Democrats and a former chaplain for the U.S. Navy Reserve. He has been an ordained Episcopal minister since 1965.
The current chairman of the Hall County Democrats, Jim Taflinger, wished Freeman well, and said the local party would regroup over the weekend and early next week.
A representative of the state Democratic Party, Eric Gray, said he was not sure whether the party would find a new candidate to qualify for the July 20 primary.
“I’m not sure about going forward,” Gray said.