WASHINGTON – Forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren, citing low fundraising totals, on Friday became the first candidate to withdraw from the crowded field of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.
Van Susteren’s announcement came about a week after her campaign reported having $157,989 cash on hand — significantly less than the race’s top fundraiser, Baltimore U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin, who has $2.6 million on hand, or the likely Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, of Largo, who has about $1.67 million in cash.
“The reality is that I was in this to win and when it became clear we weren’t going to have the resources to win, I (withdrew),” she said Friday during a telephone interview. “We did a great job; we fell short in that resource but not the important ones.”
Van Susteren, of Bethesda, was one of several Democrats chasing Cardin to represent the Democrats in the primary election in September.
Others in the race are Kweisi Mfume, a former Baltimore congressman and ex-chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who scored several points behind Cardin in a recent poll; businessman Joshua Rales, of Potomac; history professor Allan Lichtman, of Bethesda, and former Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen.
Van Susteren, sister of Fox News broadcaster Greta Van Susteren, said a lack of financial support was the primary reason for dropping from the race, but that she was not intimidated by the other candidates’ war chests.
“Those guys were fantastic and responsible, great guys and I couldn’t have enjoyed being with them more,” she said.
Van Susteren’s decision, however, should not come as a surprise, analysts said Friday.
“This is a wise move on her part,” said Ronald Walters, a government and politics professor at The University of Maryland, College Park. “This race was framed from the beginning.”
Walters said Van Susteren did not have a serious chance of beating two former congressmen — Cardin and Mfume — and possibly taking on a lieutenant governor, should she have won the primary.
“I don’t know where the logic was that says she could overcome that,” Walters said. “I don’t understand why she got into it in the first place.”
Van Susteren raised $484,122 since she entered the race in September, and spent $326,132, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Candidates are allowed to spend leftover money to pay off loans and “any lawful purpose” except personal use, according to George Smaragdis, an FEC spokesman.
Cardin, meanwhile, said he hopes his former opponent continues to participate in public service.
“I appreciate the passion that Lise brought to this campaign, specifically her commitment to improve our health care system,” he said. “I hope she remains involved in public service and uses her talents to strengthen our state.”
Van Susteren said she does not plan on endorsing a candidate, but will stay politically active. She left open the possibility of running for office in the future.
Walters said lesser-known candidates who drop out often enter races for exposure and plan to pursue political office in the future.