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Khazei to drop out of Senate race

Clears Warren’s path to nomination

Alan Khazei, Elizabeth Warren’s biggest rival for the Democratic US Senate nomination, said through a spokesman yesterday that he planned to drop out of the race, all but clearing the field for Warren to take on Republican Scott Brown in next year’s election.

Khazei, cofounder of the national service program City Year, is the third Democrat to leave the 2012 Senate election since Warren announced her candidacy last month with backing from national Democratic insiders and a wave of enthusiasm from her party’s left.

Warren had already been setting her sights on Brown and had absorbed far more attention — from Democratic activists, the Brown campaign, and the news media — than fellow Democrats. But Khazei’s withdrawal removes the only other candidate who had the finances to mount a viable challenge.

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He had raised $1.3 million since he began his effort in late April and had about $750,000 in his bank account, prompting his spokesman to pledge just a few weeks ago that he would remain in the race for the long haul.

Warren raised $3.15 million within a few weeks of declaring her candidacy. Of the remaining Democrats, state Representative Thomas P. Conroy of Wayland is the most prominent.

Others in the race include North Shore immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco, Newton software engineer Herbert W. Robinson, and James Coyne King, a Dover lawyer.

The Khazei campaign said he plans a noon press conference at his headquarters today. Warren’s spokesman declined to comment in advance of Khazei’s official announcement.

Khazei, 50, entered electoral politics following the death of Edward M. Kennedy in 2009, coming third in a four-way Democratic primary to fill the seat.

Attorney General Martha Coakley won the nomination and was defeated in the general election by Brown, in a victory that shocked the political establishment.

Khazei pitched his campaigns as an extension of his work as a grass-roots organizer who could galvanize volunteers and cut across party lines to build political support. His extensive connections in the political and nonprofit worlds and a brother who works as a Hollywood writer helped his fund-raising efforts.

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But his ability to tap donors dropped off after Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate with recent experience in the Obama administration, entered the race.

“She has struck a chord, no doubt about it,” Khazei said in an interview with Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham yesterday, before his spokesman confirmed to her that he was dropping out. “It’s definitely affected my position, so fund-raising has been tougher and in terms of attention . . . it’s challenging. Things have definitely shifted.’’

Mayor Setti Warren of Newton and Democratic activist Bob Massie cited similar challenges when they dropped out of the race in recent weeks. Setti Warren threwhis support behind Elizabeth Warren Tuesday.

Veteran Democratic political consultant Dan Payne said yesterday that he was amazed that Warren, a political neophyte with no experience in electoral politics, could clear the field so easily.

“I can’t imagine a nonpolitician shoving politicians out of a race,” he said.

Khazei tried to put Warren on the defensive with a challenge to reject money from political action committees, which she did not agree to. But he had otherwise declined to challenge her directly, much to the relief of Democratic Party leaders, who worried about wounding their potential nominee.

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Khazei did not emerge unscathed. He came under scrutiny for hiring his brother as a consultant to his charity, Be The Change. He said that issue was not a factor as he contemplated leaving the race. He also said Democratic establishment figures had not directly pressured him to drop out.

This year, Khazei’s ability to attract contributors fell sharply from 2009, when he raised $1 million in his first month as a candidate. In both campaigns, he was sustained by strong support from the employees, directors, and consultants at his nonprofit and those at another nonprofit run by his wife, according to a Globe comparison of the tax returns of the nonprofits and Federal Election Committee reports. The Globe was able to identify a total of $401,750 solely related to those two nonprofits, Be the Change and New Profit, through June 30 of this year.

In addition, the Globe identified another $138,720 from officers and directors and consultants from City Year, the nonprofit Khazei cofounded in 1988, which he left in 2006. Of the $540,470 raised in 2009 and 2011 related to the three nonprofits, just $183,650 was raised this year.

Asked in an interview on Tuesday how he was able to raise so much money so fast in 2009, Khazei replied: ‘‘I’m an outstanding fund-raiser. . . . Do you know how much money I’ve raised over the course of my 24-year career?”

Khazei’s departure can help Warren focus on Brown. But it could be a mixed blessing. The 62-year-old professor has never run for elected office, and the experience of a competitive primary could have helped season her for a general election.

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Brown’s campaign spokesman said he had no comment on the announcement yesterday. Before Warren entered the race, the Brown campaign had seemed to take Khazei seriously enough that one of Brown’s senior advisers lampooned him by sending out a series of messages on Twitter under the pseudonym CrazyKhazei.

But since Warren announced, the Brown camp had made her its main focus. Yesterday, Brown sent a new fund-raising letter to supporters, citing Warren’s comments earlier this week boasting that she ‘‘provided the intellectual foundation’’ for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“The radical left has found one of their own, and they are putting their money where their mouth is, donating over $3.3 million to her in just the first few weeks of her campaign,” the letter stated, before asking supporters to donate money to fight the “DC/Beacon Hill political establishment.”

State Republican Party spokesman Tim Buckley picked up on that theme in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

“It’s sad when someone like Alan Khazei can be effectively forced out of a Democratic primary by the Washington establishment in favor of their chosen candidate a year before a single vote is even cast,” Buckley wrote.

Conroy said he intends to stay in the race and make the case that he is best equipped to compete against Brown, even as he conceded Warren’s popularity.

“I have a lot of respect for her, and I understand and see the kind of support she’s getting,” he said. “I still feel there’s a potential path to a victory for me, and I believe in a competitive process.?

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Globe correspondents Sarah Moomaw and Gail Waterhouse and Frank Philips of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.


Globe correspondents Sarah Moomaw and Gail Waterhouse and Frank Philips of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.