DENVER (CBS4)– Democratic candidate Mike Johnston has withdrawn his bid for U.S. Senate. This comes just a little more than two weeks after former Gov. John Hickenlooper announced he was running for the Senate seat to challenge incumbent Republican Cory Gardner.

Mike Johnston (credit: CBS)

“As I looked out at the race ahead, I think to win this Democratic primary is now going to require an expensive and a negative campaign and that’s not who I am,” said Johnston, who’s raised more than $2.5 million.

(credit: YouTube)

As CBS4 was first to report, Johnston is suspending his campaign for the same reason he launched it. He wants to help Democrats take control of the Senate, which he said means avoiding a nasty primary that weakens the eventual nominee. When John Hickenlooper got in, Johnston said, a campaign of attacks became inevitable as the question became, ‘Why not Hickenlooper?’

“I think that would have broken a lot of friendships, it would have broken a lot of long term commitments in the state, it would have broken people you need to bind together more than ever right now.”

Johnston said that could cost Democrats the Senate and would cost him his values.

“It wouldn’t be worth it, I think, to sell your soul in this race to win a seat. No race is worth conceding victory to a brand of broken politics that I spent my life trying to change,” said Johnston. “And with the stakes this high – with the future of the U-S Supreme Court, with the democracy reform, with the climate crisis – the risks of doing anything that would cause us to lose the seat are risks that I’m not willing to take.”

The decision to end his campaign, Johnston says, wasn’t easy, recalling all those who have supported him.

“There’s an intimacy and a power that comes from them giving their biggest hopes and their biggest fears to you to carry and that’s incredible gift that I will miss,” said Johnston.

But Johnston insists the decision was his alone, saying no one from the party pressured him to get out.

“I just think when you’re part of a team, you realize the team is sometimes bigger than you and you do not just what’s best for me but what’s best for us and I think what’s best for us right now is not spending a year and $10 million fighting each other,” said Johnston.

As for what’s next for him Johnston said, “That was actually the very first question my 7-year-old daughter asked me when I told her this weekend. She said, ‘What’s your job now daddy?’ They’re always the toughest interviewers. I haven’t made any decisions about what’s next. I obviously believe deeply in the very issues that drew me into this race and so I want to be a part of changing the things we’ve been working so hard to fight for and I will stay in this fight for a long, long time.”

Eleven candidates remain in the race. Johnston isn’t endorsing anyone yet but says he and Hickenlooper remain friends. Hickenlooper released a statement calling Johnston a friend too as well as a tremendous public servant.

“He’s always put the good of the state and indeed country first. I know he will continue to help Colorado do great things going forward,” stated Hickenlooper.

Governor Polis, who had not weighed in on the race yet, released a statement as well saying, “Mike Johnston is an inspirational, smart, and effective leader and I know that our state and nation will continue to benefit from his desire to create real change.”

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