ATLANTA - Georgia's unpredictable race for governor lost another potential entrant Monday when the head of the Christian Coalition dropped out of the running.
Jerry Keen, who took a leave of absence in July from the Georgia Christian Coalition to decide whether to run for governor in 1998, said the race would take too much time away from his business and family.
"I am convinced there is sufficient support politically and financially to wage a potentially successful campaign," said Mr. Keen, a partner in a financial planning firm. "The impact on my business and family, however, would be significant.
"As a small business owner, a year on the campaign trial could adversely affect the growth of that business. The amount of time away from home and the energy needed to build a winning campaign is obvious."
Mr. Keen became the second potential candidate in as many weeks to drop out because of the rigors of a 11/2 -year-long campaign.
Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard, the leading Democratic hopeful, quit the race Wednesday, citing concerns that he would be away from his family too often.
"He's a fine person," Republican contender Michael Bowers said of Mr. Keen. "He would have made a formidable candidate."
Mr. Keen also made a plea for the candidates to avoid running mud-bath campaigns.
"Personal attacks and negative campaigning damage the process and succeed only in dampening the interest of citizens to participate and vote," he said.
Mr. Keen, who will now return to running the 60,000-member Christian Coalition, began talking about making the race in June, a few weeks after Mr. Bowers acknowledged having a decade-long extramarital affair with a woman who once worked for him in the state attorney general's office.
Also running are temporary services tycoon Guy Millner, the GOP nominee for governor in 1994 and U.S. Senate last year; Christian Right activist Nancy Schaefer, the party's unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994; and former U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Hatfield, a Kennesaw businessman.
Secretary of State Lewis Massey and Cobb County state Rep. Roy Barnes joined the race on the Democratic side last week after Howard quit. Labor Commissioner David Poythress has been raising money to run for governor since last fall.
Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson also is considering running as a Democrat.