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GOP candidate Dennis Nguyen withdraws from Secretary of State race

Republican Secretary of State candidate Dennis Nguyen withdrew without warning. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Republican Secretary of State candidate Dennis Nguyen withdrew without warning. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

The presumptive Republican nominee for Secretary of State suddenly left that race with a surprise announcement on Monday morning. Dennis Nguyen, a successful investment executive and political rookie, posted a message to his campaign Facebook page explaining why he planned to leave the campaign trail.

Nguyen cited professional and personal reasons for his decision, writing that he wanted to focus on commitments to both his investment firm and his family. Nguyen has four children from a previous marriage.

“My four young children require my active involvement in their lives,” Nguyen wrote. “Additionally, global equity markets are on the upswing and I need to focus on bringing a number of New Asia Partners’ investments to the market in 2014. This will require spending a lot of time over the next few months traveling both domestically and internationally.”

Nguyen’s statement came soon after a pair of developments cropped up that might have threatened his candidacy. Last week, a blog post on the City Pages website revealed that a number of anonymous Republican activists were questioning Nguyen’s viability as a statewide candidate. At issue were allegations that Nguyen was known to frequent strip clubs; those allegations were subsequently confirmed by Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, who had joined the campaign as an organizer and spokesman.

Over the weekend, news broke among conservative insiders that former state senator Ted Daley was considering his own bid for the office. Reached by Politics in Minnesota soon after Nguyen’s announcement, Daley confirmed that he had been discussing his options on getting into the race with a number of trusted associates.

Daley said he was not aware of Nguyen’s departure from the race, and added that Nguyen’s announcement would be a factor in his own decision. Initially, Daley had expected that any challenger to Nguyen would have to prepare for a costly primary election.  Nguyen did not focus on fundraising in 2013, but had recently said that he planned to tap his network of friends and supporters in the financial industry, and planned to raise $100,000 by the end of this month.

“I had heard [Ngyuen] was considering going to a primary,” Daley said. “If that’s not the case, that certainly would impact the decision and make a certain difference.”

Since last spring, Daley has been working as the treasurer on Republican Scott Honour‘s gubernatorial campaign. Daley said his work on that campaign was one of a number of commitments he would need to wrap up before entering the Secretary of State contest, which also includes DFL Reps. Steve Simon (Hopkins) and Debra Hilstrom (Brooklyn Center).

“I’ve talked to [Honour], and I haven’t officially given my resignation,” Daley said. “Now, knowing this information, that certainly is another consideration.”

First elected to the Senate in 2010, Daley served one term before losing the seat in a rematch with Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, in 2012.

Nguyen’s choice to drop out was apparently abrupt, and the California native still seemed dedicated to seeking the office in recent days. Nguyen made the rounds at a number of Republican events this past weekend, according to a series of photographs posted to his campaign Facebook page.

The first-time candidate’s pursuit of that office had drawn the support of a number of prominent Republicans, including former GOP House leader Steve Sviggum, who was serving as Nguyen’s campaign chair, and a majority of the Republican caucus members in both chambers. Nguyen carried the endorsement of all but a handful of the current crop of Republican legislators.

In his announcement, Nguyen said he planned to support whichever Republican candidate eventually wins the party endorsement.

“I will still be actively engaged in our Minnesota Republican Party and look forward to enthusiastically supporting our Republican nominee for Secretary of State in 2014,” Nguyen said. “This will be a tough election and all hands are needed on deck.”

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