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Sen. Mark Wyland has withdrawn from the race for state Board of Equalization, clearing a path for Assemblywoman Diane Harkey and ending a vicious intraparty contest between the Republican lawmakers.

Wyland, R-Solana Beach, said his goals could be better realized through another venue, a point he realized after recalling a conversation with his late mother.

"It became clear to me that the personal resources that I had set aside to run for this office would be better spent on the education foundation I had formed many years ago," Wyland said in a written statement Friday. "At this point in my life, it is more important to me to help students rather than to achieve another political office."

The state board that administers sales and property taxes and hears tax appeals has been a prized office for GOP candidates given the political landscape of the Orange-to-San Diego County district. It is being vacated by Republican Michelle Steel because of term limits.

The high-stakes nature of the race between Wyland and Harkey was clear last year when the Dana Point assemblywoman filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against the veteran senator for comments he made about a lawsuit against Harkey and her husband, Dan, alleging he defrauded investors. Harkey dropped the lawsuit in November.

Earlier this month, she received a coveted endorsement from the Republican Party of Orange County and lists about $225,000 in her campaign account as of Dec. 31.

Harkey said she admires Wyland's candor about the goals for he and his family, and sympathizes with him for the recent loss of his mother.

"I appreciate his legacy and focus on education policies in our state, and I look forward to working with him in the coming months so that we can all leave a better legacy for our children," she said.

A policy-oriented former member of the Little Hoover Commission interested in civic and vocational education, Wyland acknowledged it would be difficult to leave Sacramento.

"Politics is partly about competition, and it is not easy to walk away from that," he said. "But competition is not a sufficient reason to run for office."

PHOTO: Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, speaks about the state budget in June 2011. Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee



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