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Sehlin quits race for Metcalf's seat

"This week Whidbey Island resident and former state legislator Barry Sehlin withdrew from the Republican race for Congress from the 2nd District.Sehlin's announcement, made at the South Whidbey Republican Women's Club in Langley Tuesday, leaves Rep. John Koster, R-Arlington, as the lone GOP challenger for the seat currently held by Langley Republican Jack Metcalf. Metcalf is retiring at the end of this term and state Democrats have mounted a strong push to claim his seat in Washington D.C.Sehlin cited a lack of money as the key reason for his withdrawal. He said he and his wife made the decision last weekend after seeing several months of dwindling campaign funds.We had to recognize that ... the checkbook was empty, he said Wednesday. That made the decision for us. Sehlin said fundraising has been difficult as of late because big contributors are reluctant to give to candidates in a contested primary. He said he couldn't see raising the $1.25 million he expected it will cost to run both the Republican primary and the final contest with Democrat Rick Larsen, a Snohomish County Councilman.His statement came as a shock to many local supporters, said Island County Republican Party Chairwoman Sheilah Crider. Crider said Sehlin's campaign got off to a great start after he first announced his candidacy more than a year ago.It's hard for us because we've known him for so long, she said.Sehlin served in the state Legislature for six years prior to stepping down at the end of 1998. An Oak Harbor resident, he was well known as a former commander of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.But Koster has shown strong support on the mainland, pulling in more money than Sehlin and convincingly winning a Whatcom County straw poll vote in March. Koster, an Arlington dairy farmer, also got an early endorsement from Metcalf who threw his support to the candidate last month. Sehlin said Metcalf's pre-primary endorsement of Koster came as a surprise but did not influence his decision to back out. Crider said the national Republican Party may have put some pressure on Metcalf to take an early position to help narrow the field for what they know will be a tough and expensive race against Larsen.Sehlin was known as a moderate Republican during his days in the state Legislature. Koster is recognized as more conservative. But Sehlin said that although he and Koster have disagreed at times, he will support him in the upcoming election. He said his withdrawal from the race should not be seen as a move toward a more conservative position for the Republican Party overall.The situation doesn't have to do with ideology or issues, Sehlin said. It's strictly financial.However, ideology does worry a longtime supporter of Sehlin's, George Crampton, former chairman of the Island County Republican Party and present chairman of the Mainstream Republicans of Island County.Crampton described Koster as way to the right, citing his stance against abortion and introduction of a bill to permit prayer in public schools. To win in the general election, Crampton said, you have to move to the center and Koster has a long way to go.(South Whidbey Record editor Jim Larsen contributed to this story.)"

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