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Democrat abruptly bows out of Georgia congressional race against QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — By Tia Mitchell and Greg Bluestein The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sept. 11-- ATLANTA-Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal abruptly ended his longshot campaign for Congress on Friday against Marjorie Taylor Greene, a move that gave the controversial Republican an even clearer shot at a seat in the U.S. House.

Van Ausdal released a statement that cited "personal and family reasons" for quitting the 14th Congressional District race and moving out of the state. The campaign declined to share further details about the sudden announcement, though a spokesman said he and his staffers didn't receive any threats to drop out.

"Although all the details will remain my family's alone, please understand this was not an easy decision," the statement said. "We are real people managing hard choices."

Van Ausdal's resignation makes it a near-certainty that Greene will win the race in November for a term that begins in January.

She posted well wishes to him on Twitter before declaring herself the victor in the race.

"As the Congresswoman from NW Georgia, I look forward to fighting for our Christian, American values and helping @realDonaldTrump pass an #AmericaFirst agenda!," she wrote. "No one will fight harder against the radical, Socialist Democrats than me."

Separately, incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Graves announced Friday that he is stepping down in October, roughly three months before his term ends. However, because of built-in breaks for elections and the holidays, Graves said his work in the House will be complete by then.

"I plan to finish strong and will ensure any important transitional items are complete for my constituents in the 14th District," Graves, R-Ga., said in a statement. "One of the last votes I'll cast as a U.S. Representative will be in support of the reforms crafted by the Modernization Committee to make Congress work better for those we serve. I can think of no better way to leave The People's House."

It is uncertain but unlikely there will be an effort to find a replacement for the remainder of Graves' term.

Greene, a Republican who moved to northwest Georgia to run for the seat, is a controversial figure who has spread baseless QAnon conspiracy theories, posted racist and xenophobic videos on social media and insulted U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Although his candidacy was a longshot, Van Ausdal's resignation still came as a surprise.

"I'm the chair of the county party and I didn't know about it until this morning," said Cathy Griffith of the Catoosa County Democrats. "We'll figure out something-hopefully."

Even before he stepped down, the odds were already stacked against Van Ausdal. The northwest Georgia district is one of the most reliably Republican territories on the East Coast, and Greene handily won an August runoff against Rome neurosurgeon John Cowan to represent the seat.

The Democratic Party of Georgia immediately called on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to disqualify Van Ausdal from the ballot and allow the party "to name a replacement as soon as possible"-much like what happened after U.S. Rep. John Lewis' death in July.

But Democrats may not get the same chance in this race. Georgia law says that vacancies in these sort of elections "created by reason of the withdrawal of a candidate less than 60 days prior to the date of the election shall not be filled." Friday marked 53 days until the general election.

Still, Democrats are preparing contingency plans. Several local activists quickly compiled a list of potential contenders. Among the names is Bobby Lee Cook, the famed defense attorney in Summerville who was a model for the television series "Matlock."

"We hate this has happened and that we lost Kevin, but we don't want to leave the seat unchallenged and we're trying to find someone in the district that has some state and national level experience," said Jeff Adair, who heads the Gordon County Democratic Party. "We don't have to roll over and play dead."

The Georgia secretary of state's office, which oversees state elections, did not immediately comment. Nor did Greene's campaign. But Republicans quickly declared victory.

"Congratulations to Georgia's new Congresswoman," tweeted Republican Senate candidate Doug Collins.

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