Republican 12th District congressional candidate Cleve Mobley said Tuesday he is stepping out of the race.
Mr. Mobley, 41, a Burke County farmer, said he decided not to seek the seat because mistakes he made in the past are being exploited by political foes, and the attacks show no signs of stopping.
"We are heartbroken, " he said. "I don't know how to describe it. It's like a death in the family."
Mr. Mobley said he was arrested in Burke County in 1991 and charged with simple battery in connection with an assault on his wife, Marlette. Those charges were later dismissed, he said.
That incident has become the focus of an e-mail campaign, and Mr. Mobley said his life continues to be the target of politically motivated rumors and innuendo.
Mr. Mobley, who farms 4,000 acres in Burke County, said he has never made a secret of his past alcohol problem and went to great lengths when he entered the race to make sure every supporter and news reporter knew about it.
"I knew we were going to have to shed light on everything, get it up front in the open, but I did not want to affect other people's lives," he said Tuesday. "And through the rumors and whisper campaigns that are already taking place now, and the digging in businesses, they're going to stop me in the critical part of my campaign - in fund-raising.
"I am offering a refund of all contributions to my supporters immediately," Mr. Mobley said.
Mr. Mobley said whoever is sending out the e-mails about his arrest is trying to prevent him from raising the $1 million he said he needs to win the election.
He said he became the target of a smear campaign after releasing his financial disclosure statement, which showed he had received more in campaign contributions than any other 12th District candidate.
He said he and his wife prayed about the situation over the weekend and decided he would withdraw.
"I cannot require that sacrifice from my family, neighbors, lifelong friends and business associates and my supporters," he said. "I don't think I should drag them through the mud with me - anyone - for personal political gain."
Mr. Mobley also said he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in 1978 and with boating under the influence in 1998, the year he quit drinking.
Mr. Mobley said a search is under way for someone to replace him in the race.
"Now all I can do is try to help someone else to get to where I am and help them win," he said.
The 12th District is a newly created district that runs from Athens into Savannah and includes most of Augusta. Mr. Mobley, one of two Republican candidates, raised $124,528 in January, February and March - more than any other candidate.
Nine Democrats are also in the race, including Charles Walker Jr., the son of the state Senate majority leader from Augusta; state Rep. Ben Allen, also of Augusta; and Savannah Mayor Floyd Adams.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.