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KENAI - The Democrat seeking to unseat state Sen. Jerry Ward has dropped out and thrown his support to the Republican Moderate in the race.
Pat Hawkins, candidate for Senate District Q on the Kenai Peninsula, told the Peninsula Clarion he is backing Republican Moderate Tom Wagoner in an effort to unseat Ward, the Republican incumbent.
Wagoner was surprised and delighted with the news, saying it would boost his candidacy.
The race for the two-year Senate term also includes Green Party candidate Thomas Stroman.
Hawkins faced an uphill battle against Ward and Wagoner. He said a recent poll showed him a distant third.
"I was in the race to beat Jerry Ward," he said. "But I'm falling further behind Tom Wagoner and Jerry Ward."
Hawkins also has health problems. He's had two surgeries in six weeks for kidney stones and faces two more in the near future, he said. That, his falling poll numbers and an inability to match the money raised by his rivals led to his decision to withdraw, he said.
"It was a tough decision for myself and my wife to make," he said. "I didn't want to at first. I have my principles."
Hawkins said he would cross party lines and vote for Wagoner and would encourage his supporters to do the same.
Hawkins said Ward neither represents peninsula voters' interests nor considers the peninsula his home, despite establishing residency in a Nikiski trailer.
"It's legal, but it's not ethical," Hawkins said. "The deal is Anchorage wants an Anchorage senator down here on the Kenai."
Ward represents Senate District E, which includes South Anchorage. Senate E will cease to exist in the next Legislature. Ward established residency in Nikiski in May 2001 to run for the new Senate District Q, which was created during redistricting.
Ward has raised $101,419 and spent $78,799 on his effort to win re-election, according to the APOC.
Wagoner, the Republican moderate, has raised $16,724 and spent $11,448 - more than twice Hawkins' campaign chest.
Ward said voters now have a choice.
"It's a clear choice between a conservative Republican and the liberals who want to take the money away from the people for more government," he said. "I have a six-year record representing the Kenai Peninsula. People know where I stand, and I hope the people will re-elect me."