By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Georgia Democrat running for the U.S. Congress against a Republican businesswoman who has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory on Friday said he was dropping out of the race and leaving the state for personal reasons.
Kevin Van Ausdal wrote on Twitter he was quitting the contest for a seat in the House of Representatives against Marjorie Taylor Greene. She won her party’s nomination last month in a conservative district of northwest Georgia, making her the likely winner in the general election on Nov. 3.
“I am heartbroken to announce that for family and personal reasons, I cannot continue this race for Congress,” Van Ausdal said on Twitter.
“The next steps in my life are taking me away from Georgia,” Van Ausdal said. He also denounced “dangerous extremism, like the candidacy of Marjorie Greene.”
QAnon is a fringe belief propagated online that claims without evidence “deep-state” traitors are plotting against President Donald Trump.
Greene, on Twitter, sent Van Ausdal “best wishes”.
“As the Congresswoman from NW Georgia, I look forward to fighting for our Christian, American values and helping @realDonaldTrump pass an #AmericaFirst agenda!,” she wrote.
Georgia’s Democratic Party urged Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to allow Democrats to name a replacement candidate.
But Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs responded in a statement that the law is clear: “Mr. Van Ausdal can withdraw his candidacy or remain on the ballot. He cannot be replaced.”
Georgia law says a vacancy created by a candidate’s withdrawal less than 60 days before the election cannot be filled.
Representative Tom Graves, the retiring Republican who is vacating the seat, announced Friday that he will leave Congress in October, when the House will likely recess, instead of January, when his successor takes office. An aide said the timing of Graves’ announcement on the same day as Van Ausdal’s was coincidental.