The Key West mayoral candidate who has raised and spent the most money in a crowded race dropped out Monday, citing a back injury.
Danny Hughes, 59, a full-time Key West resident for five years who hails from New Orleans, said ending his campaign, in which he has so far raised $48,685 and spent all but about $5,000, was a surprise even to himself.
“We already have our signs, we have everything,” Hughes said. “We were all teed up and ready to go.”
His departure leaves 10 candidates who have announced a run to succeed Mayor Craig Cates, who is term-limited after being first elected in 2009. Key West elections are nonpartisan.
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The candidate right behind Hughes in campaign collections is Teri Johnston, a former city commissioner, who has raised $42,000 and spent almost $30,000.
George Bellanger has raised more than $14,000 and spent about $6,000, according to campaign finance records.
Hughes said the back issue started June 1 and hasn’t gotten any better after two weeks of rest. After three days of testing at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Hughes made the decision to end his campaign.
"The doctor said, ‘Well, you’re not a candidate for surgery yet, but if you want to continue knocking on doors, we’ll see you in one or two weeks.’”
The primary election is Aug. 28. If needed, the runoff will be Nov. 6.
Hughes and his wife, Maura, bought Two Friends restaurant five years ago, after visiting Key West faithfully since 1998.
Although Hughes, in an interview Monday, wouldn't call himself the mayoral race's front-runner, his campaign Facebook page said he was the "leading candidate."
“We had put together quite a coalition,” he said. “It was humbling.”
In addition to raising so much campaign cash, with more than $20,000 coming from friends and associates in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, Hughes also had Cates' support.
Hughes said the donors were friends he made while he was serving as a governor-appointed commissioner for the Port of New Orleans in the early 2000s. “I didn’t want to hit people in Key West too hard,” Hughes said.
One of Hughes' $1,000 donors was John Georges, a multimillionaire who sank $11 million into the Louisiana governor's race in 2007 and lost.