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Mike Evans drops out of congressional race
Former legislator, DOT chairman says 'family comes first'
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Citing financial concerns, Mike Evans of Forsyth County announced Wednesday that he is dropping out of the race for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House.

Evans said the decision came after he and his wife, Gena, looked ahead at the next six months.

"It was down to a choice between helping to provide for my family, or running for Congress," Evans said shortly after his announcement. "It became an easy choice that my family comes first."

Evans, former chairman of the state Department of Transportation, was the first Republican candidate to announce his bid after U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal said he was running for governor.

Evans, who is also a former state legislator, said he has notified the other seven Republican candidates, but has no plans to endorse anyone at this time.

State Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, is one of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination. He said Wednesday night that he and Evans have been friends over the years, and he knew the decision to drop out had been a difficult one.

"We’ve enjoyed campaigning against each other," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said Evans withdrawing from the race was a plus for his own. He hopes Evans supporters would join his campaign.

"I respect what (Evans) needs to do, and what he needs to think about; I hope I can earn his support," Hawkins said.

The field has also drawn at least one independent candidate and one Democrat.

Fellow Republican candidate and Forsyth County resident Bill Stephens wished Evans and his family the best.

"I thank Mike for his years of leadership," Stephens said. "A good friend, neighbor and public servant, Mike Evans will continue his service and leadership in Forsyth County."

In his recent campaign disclosures, Evans reported raising more than $202,000. He trailed only state Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger and Hawkins.

Evans said he was committed to the race, but like others in the struggling economy, needs to focus instead on personal finances.

A real estate developer, he said he plans to pursue consulting work. He has two children in college and is saving money to send a third child in a couple of years.

"I hate it. I thought we had a great shot at it, and we got a lot of support from all over the district from our DOT days, but family comes first," he said.

"It was a hard decision, but people all over North Georgia and all over the country are making hard decisions every day."

Evans stepped down from his DOT post in 2008 to marry then-DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham. He said the two are looking forward to enjoying marriage out of the public life.

"It’s been almost two years, and I’m kind of looking forward to having a normal relationship like other married couples do," he said.

Times reporter Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.