AUGUSTA, Maine — Former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse has ended his Democratic primary bid for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, saying his campaign is no longer viable while endorsing the front-runner in the June primary.
LaJeunesse, of Biddeford, cited the new coronavirus as part of the reason why he was suspending his bid in a statement posted on Medium, saying it would be “impossible” to continue campaigning “when the country is focused on an unprecedented health and economic crisis” that has made meeting with voters difficult.
He endorsed House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, who is backed by Senate Democrats’ campaign arm as the party prioritizes ousting Collins in 2020. LaJeunesse said Gideon “has served us well in Augusta and I am confident she will represent us well in Washington.”
LaJeunesse isolated himself last week after possible exposure to the virus, vowing to continue to campaign electronically. His campaign was marked by a heavy focus on tech regulation and human rights, often pointing to his experience in international relations at Google and as a sought-after speaker on free speech, technology and LGBTQ rights.
He later spoke out about his time with the tech company, which he left last year after he said he pushed for a human rights program as Google was exploring a return to China via a censored search app called Project Dragonfly, a since-abandoned reversal of a 2010 decision to stop censoring search results in China.
He has said he was pushed out of the company after they eliminated his role, an action he said was meant to “put him back in the closet,” although the company offered him a different role in foreign policy. LaJeunesse is gay.
The announcement drops the number of active Democratic challengers to Collins down to three. Gideon, Hallowell lobbyist Betsy Sweet and Saco lawyer Bre Kidman are competing for a chance to challenge Collins in November. At least four independents are gathering signatures to run, with former Green candidate Lisa Savage saying she has collected enough to make the ballot.