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Beavers drops Republican bid for Tennessee governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former state Sen. Mae Beavers, a social conservative who has rallied against gay marriage and pushed bills to restrict the bathrooms transgender students could use, said Tuesday that she is dropping out of the crowded Republican field for the open Tennessee governor’s race.

“After criss-crossing the state and meeting thousands of fellow Tennesseans, it was not a light decision to make because you have embraced our conservative message whole-heartedly,” the former lawmaker from Mt. Juliet wrote on Facebook. “However, it is the right choice to make.”

Beavers wrote that she’s looking forward to her retirement with her husband after decades of serving as an elected official.

Beavers was an early supporter of President Donald Trump and served as the head of Tennessee’s delegation to the Republican National Convention. She left the state Senate in August to focus on her bid for governor.

But she struggled to collect campaign checks. She raised only $163,900 from July through mid-January and had $167,400 cash on hand.

Most recently, Trevecca Nazarene University canceled a summit Beavers had planned for this month on homeland security amid criticism that its speakers were anti-Muslim.

Beavers’ departure from the race leaves four major Republicans in the field: U.S. Rep. Diane Black, state House Speaker Beth Harwell, and businessmen Randy Boyd and Bill Lee. After her announcement, several offered positive words about Beavers.

Black said that “while Mae and I don’t always agree on tactics, we have always agreed on philosophy,” citing their shared support of anti-abortion legislation and opposition to previous attempts to impose a state income tax.

Boyd applauded Beavers’ “efforts to serve Tennessee with passion and a conservative vision.”

Lee added that he looks forward to seeing her “steadfast conservative leadership be put to work in other ways in Tennessee in the months and years ahead.”

The Democratic field for governor includes former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh.

The primary election is Aug. 2.