ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Republicans won’t have a primary for the open secretary of state’s office.

Former state Sen. John Howe of Red Wing pulled out of the race Thursday, clearing the way to the fall ballot for the GOP’s endorsed candidate, Dan Severson. Howe lost at last weekend’s state party convention but left open the possibility of pressing on to an August primary election against Severson, a former legislator who sought the office unsuccessfully in 2010.

Howe said he promised delegates he wouldn’t run without the endorsement so he felt compelled to drop out.

“I believe — and I’ve always said — that your word matters,” Howe said.

He added that he hopes the race doesn’t focus too much on the election functions of the office at the expense of debate over its business registration duties. Howe had warned that his party could suffer if debate over requiring photo identification at polling places consumes the race.

Severson said the lack of a primary allows him to devote his full attention and resources to the fall campaign.

“I appreciate John staying to his word,” Severson said. “We will be a stronger party for it.”

State Rep. Steve Simon has the Democratic endorsement. He has two primary opponents with little campaign infrastructure, Gregg Iverson and Dick Franson. Two Independence Party candidates, Bob Helland and David Singleton, are competing for a slot on the November ballot.

Incumbent Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat who oversaw back-to-back statewide recounts for U.S. Senate and governor, is retiring after his second term.

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