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Grams ends bid for Senate, clears GOP way for Kennedy

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - Citing the potential for a divisive campaign ahead, conservative former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams said Sunday he is ending his bid to return to the Senate in 2006.

Grams told The Associated Press that while he believed he could still win the Republican nomination for the seat he lost to Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton in 2000, he knew it would be a tough battle within the party. Dayton already has said he will not seek re-election.

"I felt this was the time we should be united," Grams said.

Grams said he'll support the party's nominee, likely U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, who announced earlier this month that he had raised $550,000 over a six-week period.

Grams hadn't started raising funds yet, but said that wasn't a factor in his decision.

"I was talking to a lot of people and I figured there was time for fund-raising," Grams said. "I just didn't want to tear the party apart."

Grams served one term in the House before winning a Senate seat in 1994. Before going to Washington, he worked as a news anchorman in the Twin Cities.

He was one of the most conservative members in the Senate, and his signature achievement was passage of the $500-per-child tax credit. In 2000, he was outspent 2-1 by the self-funding millionaire Dayton.

Grams is now a consultant in Washington, and owner of three Minnesota radio stations with his wife.

Michael Brodkorb, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said that with Grams out of the race, Kennedy is seen as the clear front-runner for the party nomination. One other candidate, retired minister Harold Shudlick, is also running as a Republican.

Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar is the first Democrat to officially enter the race. Children's advocate Patty Wetterling is expected to join her soon and several others are considering the race.