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A top Democratic recruit for the swing 26th Congressional District shocked supporters Saturday by dropping out of the race, one day after party leaders touted his race as a top pick-up opportunity.

Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, who was the top candidate for a pre-primary endorsement recommendation, announced during the state Democratic Party Convention in San Diego that he will drop his congressional candidacy to run for re-election to the Board of Supervisors.

The Ventury County Star's Timm Herdt reports:

The decision leaves Democrats in disarray one month before the filing deadline.

"I'm very disappointed in what Steve has done," said Brian Leshon, secretary of the county party's central committee. "This district was ours to take. We've got to see what happens now."

Republican Central Committee Chairman Mike Osborn said he believes the GOP chances of winning the 26th District -- rated as a political tossup that on paper slightly favors Democrats -- "were always great, and I think this proves that. I've never seen a politician quit a race he thought he could win."

Bennett said he decided to run for Congress last fall even though his heart was never completely in it, and that it had never been a personal ambition.

"There was a constant drumbeat from others who felt that I was the most electable Democrat in Ventura County and that I should do this," he said. "I was doing something because I thought I should do it."

Asked if it was a mistake, he responded: "I'm not embarrassed to say it. I really tried to make it work."

Three other Democrats are running for the seat, but none were able to win enough votes at a Saturday delegate meeting to secure the party's endorsement. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, and Linda Parks, a GOP supervisor who Herdt reports might run as no party preference this June, are also considered strong candidates for the seat.

Click here to read the full Ventury County Star piece.



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