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Vinroot Pulls Out of Senate Race, Backs Dole

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RALEIGH — Former Charlotte mayor Richard Vinroot willpull out of the U.S. Senate race Tuesday and endorse former GOPpresidential candidate Elizabeth Dole in the contest.

Vinroot spokeswoman Samantha Abt confirmed Vinroot's decision,which was first reported online.

Vinroot planned to attend a joint news conference with Dole atGOP headquarters in Mecklenburg County Tuesday, Abt said. Shedeclined to describe the reasons behind Vinroot's choice, sayingVinroot and Dole would make a joint statement later.

His decision comes amid pressure from Republican leaders towithdraw to clear the path for Dole, who is seeking the nominationto replace Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., who is retiring in 2003.

Vinroot recently described a campaign against Dole as "missionimpossible," a local newspaper reported.

Vinroot's decision removes the last big-name Republican opponentfor Dole in next May's GOP primary.

Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, the Republican National Committeechairman, and other party leaders had urged Vinroot to step asidefor Dole - a longtime Vinroot friend and political ally.

Vinroot also was having difficulty raising the estimated $3million to $4 million needed to mount a credible primary campaignagainst Dole.

Investment banker Erskine Bowles' entry last month into theDemocratic Party race for the Senate seat siphoned off potentialcampaign contributors since both he and Vinroot based theirfinancial support in Charlotte, the country's second-largestbanking city.

The Dole campaign last week released an internal statewide pollshowing that Dole would defeat Vinroot by 76 percent to 14 percent.

Republicans remaining in the GOP Senate race are Lexingtonattorney Jim Snyder, retired Salisbury physician Ada Fisher,Lumberton radiologist Jim Parker, and Salisbury insurance agentDouglas Sellers.

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