SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff on Wednesday dropped out of a U.S. Senate race to spend more time with a 17-year-old daughter who is suffering from severe mental health problems and has attempted suicide in the past.”It is absolutely 100 percent based on my daughter and my family’s needs,” Shurtleff (SHIRT’-liff) said in an interview. “Whether she survives depends on the next year, and so the Senate race had to give.”Shurtleff was one of several Republicans challenging U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett for the GOP nomination this spring. He was considered Bennett’s most serious challenger, although Bennett has maintained a sizable fundraising lead.The most recent Federal Election Commission reports show Bennett has raised about $1.6 million and has about $790,000 cash on hand, while Shurtleff raised about $209,000 and had $146,000 in the bank.Bennett’s three other Republican challengers have little statewide name recognition or political experience. Shurtleff said he was worried about disappointing thousands of supporters, donors and volunteers, but the support for him and his family has been overwhelming.”It reconfirmed to me that Utahns get the importance of family,” Shurtleff said.Shurtleff has five children, three of whom he says have special needs and came from families with drug and alcohol problems. He and his 17-year-old daughter have spoken publicly before school groups about mental health problems in the past.Shurtleff said the daughter, who was adopted, began spiraling out of control this fall once school started and has since been checked into a residential treatment facility. He said he and his wife M’Liss would need to attend numerous counseling sessions.”Her ability to succeed in that program is directly tied to my ability, my family’s ability, to work the program to their substantial requirements,” he saidShurtleff said he would remain in office as attorney general and didn’t rule out running for state or federal office in the future. He added that he would love to run for governor, but he didn’t think his wife would want to serve as the state’s first lady.After a special election in November, the governor’s seat will be up for grabs in 2012.In the Senate race, Shurtleff’s attacks on Bennett revolved around Bennett’s support for bank bailouts and a health care proposal that would require individuals to buy health insurance. He also criticized Bennett for being in office too long. When first elected in 1992, Bennett pledged to serve only two terms.Bennett applauded Shurtleff for putting his family ahead of the campaign.”Mark Shurtleff clearly has his priorities straight putting his family first. I am distressed to hear this new information about Mark’s daughter and wish him and his family the very best as they work through this challenge,” Bennett said in a statement.Although Bennett enjoyed a significant fundraising lead, he has repeatedly said this would be his most difficult election yet. In Utah, even candidates who are unknown to most of the state can mount a serious challenge through the state’s party convention system, where 3,500 delegates choose the party’s nominees.Only candidates who fail to earn 60 percent of delegate votes are forced into a costly primary. In highly conservative Utah, whoever wins the GOP nomination is likely to cruise to victory in the general election.The only Democrat to file for the Senate seat so far is Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control chairman Sam Granato, who has never held elected office.
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