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Updated: O'Brien's spokesman says former senator decided to drop out of race before he took fliers without permission

Anita Kumar

Jason Flanary, a spokesman for Jay O'Brien, said the former senator did not withdraw from the Republican primary in a Fairfax County Senate district because of the criticism he received after he was caught on tape taking his opponent's fliers from a general store.

The Manassas News & Messenger reported last week that O'Brien took Scott Martin's fliers from Davis General Store in Clifton after buying gas and a newspaper.

Flanary told us Tuesday that Martin called O'Brien that same day and asked him to return his fliers. O'Brien agreed, Flanary said. "It's not an issue,'' he said.

Flanary said O'Brien made the decision to drop out of the race before he took the fliers because he needed to concentrate on his furniture sales business, Sevea Staves Enterprises.

"Unfortunately, recent developments in my business will require more of my attention than I had previously anticipated,'' O'Brien wrote in an e-mail to supporters late Friday night. "It is clear to me that I cannot continue a campaign for office without the full concentration it deserves."

O'Brien's decision was clearly last minute. He had just held his campaign kick-off May 12 and had been endorsed by a host of heavy hitters, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and others.

Martin, an assistant dean at George Mason University who ran unsuccessfully for Fairfax County School Board in 2003, announced his candidacy March 9. No other Republican is running.

The winner will face Democratic Sen. George Barker, who said he has been visiting with voters but won't kick off his reelection campaign until next year.

Barker said he heard the news about O'Brien and the fliers last week, though he had not been to the Davis General Store in quite some time. "I'm just a spectator,'' he said.

The 39th district includes parts of northern Prince William and southern Fairfax County, though the boundary lines could -- and probably will -- change with the redistricting process after the 2010 census. McDonnell won the district with 56 percent of the vote.

Update: Martin said O'Brien called him Thursday to tell him he was dropping out and to wish him well. "I did know his business was in trouble several months before,'' he said. "I completely understand his decision."

By Anita Kumar  |  June 1, 2010; 2:12 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  | Tags: Jay O'Brien, O'Brien takes fliers; O'Brien drops out of race, O'Brien takes opponents fliers, Scott Martin  
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