The top candidate running in the Republican primary to challenge Rep. Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.) in the November general election has dropped out of the race.
Mark Kleine, an Illinois businessman, first announced in August of last year that he would seek the Republican nomination to challenge Bustos in the Illinois 17th congressional district with goal of ending "politics and partisan fighting."
However, Kleine, who was seen as the most viable Republican candidate in the race, announced this week that he had become frustrated at the nature of campaigns and has terminated his relationship with his campaign staff.
"My intentions and my sincere desire to serve are based on a lifetime of values, experience, and skills needed to do a difficult job," said Kleine. "Above that was my willingness to share in the financial responsibility and the commitment to help fund the campaign with my own investment. While I believed in the race and was confident in my chance at winning I realized it would never be enough to satisfy the experts. At what point do we say enough is enough. How many millions of dollars does it really take to run for office?"
"There is a profound and detrimental difference between what I believe in and what is today's business of campaigns," Kleine continued. "I've learned this is an industry that celebrates wasteful spending, encourages inflated campaign budgets, and has no regard for operational oversight just ‘to win the race' but more importantly for others to prosper. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way, that sacrificing one's values and beliefs is expected to be a part of the process.
"For these reasons, I have decided to withdraw my candidacy and will no longer seek election for US Congress in the Illinois 17th District."
Kleine, who has raised more than $500,000 since entering the race five months ago, said that he would return all donations to those who have given to his campaign.
Bill Fawell, a real estate broker, is the only Republican left in the race to challenge Bustos, who was first elected to Congress in 2012 after defeating Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling. Fawell has raised less than $5,000.
Bustos' campaign did not return a request for comment on Kleine's withdrawal by press time.