Kyle said he thought he had a strong chance of winning the primary in August but had serious doubts about his ability to win in this fall’s general election. Asked if he thought a Democrat could win, he said, “Yes, I think so, but I don’t think I’m that Democrat.”
The two remaining Democrats in a primary field that has rapidly winnowed are Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, son of former Governor Ned McWherter, and former state House majority leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville.
Some of the factors that he said had entered into his decision were: fundraising restrictions in state law that prohibit sitting legislators from raising money during an ongoing General Assembly session; the acute demands of the current session “and my commitment to getting things accomplished in it;” a sagging economy; and “the fact that I began to doubt if I could get my message across in the current environment.”
Kyle said he had reached his decision earlier this week, when he confided it to family and staffers, and informed a few of his legislative colleagues earlier Friday morning in Nashville but did not announce it publicly until 1 p.m. Friday afternoon.
“It was a difficult decision,” Kyle said, “but I can make difficult decisions. That was one of the reasons why I thought I could perform well as governor.”
Kyle’s full formal statement on exiting the race was as follows:
"After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I have decided that I will no longer be a candidate for Governor of Tennessee.
It is clear to me that while our campaign had the assets to be competitive in the Primary, the legislative fundraising restriction, the economy, and my duties as Senate Leader have severely hampered my ability to generate resources which would have been vital to our success in the general election. Our state faces unprecedented budget and funding issues that cannot wait for the next Governor, and I plan to devote all my energies to working with Governor Bredesen and my colleagues in the legislature to ensure that the best interests of all Tennesseans are placed first.
"I started this campaign for governor to help our state create the recession-proof jobs that will move us forward. My vision for accomplishing this task was to take "Higher Education to a Higher Place," and make our colleges economic engines for Tennessee. While no longer a candidate for Governor, I will continue to be an outspoken advocate to promote and define the solutions that answer our state's most pressing challenges, in both higher education and job creation. Perhaps, my exit from this race will enable some of my legislative initiatives, which will address these challenges, to be seen and heard more clearly.
"For a guy whose Mom worked in a tire factory and whose Dad drove a truck, perhaps the most humbling support has been from Tennessee's working families. My parents' jobs were hard jobs, and because of the Unions they belonged to, they were able to provide a better life for our family.
"I would like to thank each and every Tennessean who has assisted me in this campaign. I am proud to call Tennessee home. I have built a career in this great state, raised my family here, and will continue to pursue the same goal I set for this campaign: that we have a government that measures its success one citizen at a time."