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Atkinson suspends his try for governor

MEDFORD — Republican state Sen. Jason Atkinson suspended his campaign for governor Thursday because of family health problems.

The 39-year-old Central Point lawmaker, who still is recovering from an accidental shooting in 2008 that makes it difficult for him to walk, wants to attend to serious health concerns in his family, he said in a prepared statement. His wife, Stephanie, was treated for thyroid cancer last year.

Atkinson said he will make an announcement at a later time about whether he will continue to run for governor.

Cheri Adkins, Atkinson's legislative aide who also works on his campaign, said the senator just had informed her of his decision not to run Thursday morning.

"Right now he is out of the campaign, but I can't say what is going to happen in the future," she said.

Adkins said the senator had been spending a lot of time with his consulting business, Allmand Tree Creative, since the legislative session ended and has done only limited campaigning.

She said the senator remains in pain from his injuries, but she is not sure of the health condition of Atkinson's wife. "I just know there are problems there," she said.

Atkinson, an avid cyclist, was working on a friend's bicycle on July 29, 2008, when a small bag containing a derringer fell and the weapon fired, hitting Atkinson in the right leg above the knee.

Adkins said a meeting that had been planned to discuss the campaign had not been held yet.

Adkins said she did not believe it would hurt Atkinson's chances of winning the primary on May 18, 2010, if he stopped campaigning for a month or two to deal with family health problems.

Atkinson and the other candidates jumped into the campaign earlier than usual, she said.

Businessman Allen Alley and former legislator John Lim are running for governor on the Republican ticket.

In his prepared statement, Atkinson said, "Stephanie and I have recently been confronted with some serious health concerns that need to be addressed before I undertake such a massive task as running for Governor of our great state. We ask for your thoughts and prayers as well as your patience as we wade through this difficult time. I am not going away, but need time with my family. We greatly appreciate your strong support and kind words."

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber is considered the Democratic frontrunner in the governor's race. Former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and former Hewlett-Packard executive Steve Shields are also in the Democratic primary race.

Atkinson, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, has not filed his candidacy papers with the Secretary of State's Office in the governor's race.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

Oregon State Senator Jason Atkinson has announced his plans to run for Governor. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell