PHOENIX - State Sen. Al Melvin on Monday dropped his bid for the Republican nomination for Arizona governor, citing his inability to collect enough contributions to win public funding for his campaign.
The move leaves six other Republicans to slug it out for their party's nomination in the Aug. 26 primary and the chance to take on Democrat Fred DuVal in the November general election. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer can't seek a third term.
Melvin said he could not run a viable campaign without the more than $750,000 he would have received from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, so he decided to pull out. The Tucson lawmaker needed 4,500 $5 contributions to win that funding.
"I frankly didn't expect it to turn out this way, but it did," Melvin said in an interview.
He added that "you enter these things to win" but he wasn't able to secure his Clean Elections funding well before early balloting begins at the end of July. He says 50 to 60 percent of conservative Republicans vote early.
Staying in the race would have split the conservative vote, Melvin said. He did not identify whom he would support but said he would likely endorse a candidate within a couple of weeks.
The remaining GOP hopefuls are state Treasurer Doug Ducey, former Go Daddy executive Christine Jones, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, former U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Thomas last week was denied public funding for his campaign after falling 113 contributions short of the qualifying number. Thomas, who lost his law license in 2012 because of failed corruption investigations that he and county Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched against political opponents, has one chance to file additional contributions and win his funding. He's actively gathering contributions.
Bennett has received public funding, but the other four candidates are running with private financing.
Melvin's withdrawal will likely not be a game-changer, because he was seen as a minor player behind Ducey, Jones, Smith and Bennett.
Melvin said he thought he had done well on the campaign trail and in more than 30 candidate forums. He was pushing "Texas-style" tort reform, universal school vouchers, border security and development of nuclear power, among other issues.