FRANKFORT — Todd County businessman Bill Johnson has decided to withdraw from Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race.
Johnson, a Republican, issued a statement Wednesday that said a poll conducted for his campaign Tuesday night showed results that “were not encouraging for a continued run.
“It is time to gracefully and honorably exit the race for the U.S. Senate.”
Johnson, seeking his first public office, said he would remain neutral in the Republican primary race and considered both Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul “good men.”
“Regardless of who wins the primary, I offer my full support to helping that candidate become our next U.S. Senator from Kentucky,” Johnson said.
Grayson said Johnson’s candidacy “made this a better campaign, and I hope he will seek public office again in the future.
“Bill brought a valuable perspective as a businessman and veteran to the problems created by the federal government and proposed common sense solutions that we need in Washington. He’ll be missed on the campaign trail.”
Paul’s campaign manager, David Adams, said, “Bill Johnson has been a real gamer and I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of him. The energy he brought to this race is a sure testimony to the public’s desire for an outsider to shake things up in Kentucky.”
Johnson said he had “no regrets” about the race and that he enjoyed spending time on the campaign trail with men like the late Bob Heft, who designed the current American flag, and pro-life advocate Alan Keyes.
“I will spend the next few months relaxing and enjoying time with my family,” Johnson said. “I humbly thank all my supporters and volunteers for their efforts. My goal was to be your public servant in Washington but perhaps another opportunity will emerge in the future. I look forward to your continued friendship. Please stay in touch.”
In January, Johnson said he had loaned his campaign $250,000 to start off the new year on stronger financial footing.
He said the loan was a signal to the political establishment that he was a serious candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by two-term Republican Jim Bunning.
In an interview, Johnson said he has spent about $150,000 of his loan and will be dealing with his campaign funds now that he is out of the race.
Johnson also said he talked to both Grayson and Paul about his decision.
“I told them I just have to look at reality,” Johnson said. “I never got in this race to be a spoiler but to win it. I realized that I could not, so now I’m going to get my plane ready to fly to Florida in a couple of weeks.”
State Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson said he spoke to Johnson earlier in the day.
“A decision like this has to be very difficult,” Robertson said. “I respect Bill Johnson very much. I consider him a friend. He ran an honorable race and kept true to Republican values. I think he has a bright future in the party.”
Johnson’s name still will appear on the May 18 primary election ballots across the state but precinct workers will display public notices that his votes will not be recorded, said Les Fugate, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.
Fugate noted that Johnson has not yet submitted a form to the state office that says he is withdrawing from the race.