Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry ended his US Senate bid on Wednesday just two weeks before Wisconsin’s Democratic primary and after spending more than $12 million on his campaign.
The decision is a surprising move from a candidate who polls showed was competitive with Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes in the Democratic primary, who Lasry endorsed.
But a Democratic official familiar with the decision tells CNN that Lasry began reaching out to a handful of select Democratic officials Wednesday morning to advise them of his plans to leave the race, after a string of disappointing internal poll numbers suggested the race was out of reach in the final two weeks of the campaign.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported Lasry’s decision.
“It is clear the best person to be able to defeat Ron Johnson is Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and I am proud to be able to stand up here and support him,” Lasry said.
In a statement Wednesday, Barnes said, “I am so grateful to Alex for all of the work he’s done to move Wisconsin forward, and I’m proud to have his endorsement. I deeply admire Alex’s commitment to creating good union jobs and raising wages throughout his career and throughout this campaign, and the work he’s done to bring pride and opportunity to Milwaukee, a city we both love.”
The move makes Barnes the favorite in the Democratic race to face Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in November. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, another candidate who was running to face Johnson, ended his campaign this week and endorsed Barnes.
State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski remains in the race, but polls over the summer found her in the single digits, trailing both Barnes and Lasry. A spokesperson for Godlewski did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite Lasry’s personal investment of more than $12 million into the campaign, he and his advisers believed that Barnes was in command of the race, considering Godlewski is not advertising and has shed some of his support to Barnes.
“It wasn’t plausible to catch up,” a top Wisconsin Democrat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to give Lasry time to make his announcement. “He wants to be a good team player.”
This story has been updated with additional information.