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Marko out of 2nd District congressional race

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(AP)  Democratic state Sen. Sharon Marko withdrew Wednesday from Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District race, making a fall matchup between FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley and Republican Rep. John Kline a near certainty.    

   Marko, who was in the race for less than two months, said she entered the race too late and it became clear "the obstacles seem insurmountable, and it's time to step aside."

      She said the legislative session hasn't left her enough time to campaign.

      When she opened her campaign in February, Marko questioned whether Rowley was the right candidate to take on Kline, who is going after his third term. As she left the race, Marko declined to endorse Rowley. "I'm not supporting anybody," she said.

      Marko said she still believes Kline can be beat.

      Rowley's campaign manager Joe Elcock said Marko's decision allows Rowley to conserve her resources and focus entirely on Kline. Still, Elcock said having a challenger within the Democratic Party wasn't all bad.

      "Sharon getting into the race was also a help because it forced us to organize more and get a better handle on the issues," he said.

      Kline spokesman Troy Young said the congressman is busy in Washington and hasn't turned his focus to the campaign. "It is still not clear who the DFL nominee will be," he said.

      The 2nd District extends south from the Twin Cities suburbs into small towns and farm-rich areas. Kline won a second term with 56 percent of the vote in 2004.

      Minnesota's congressional races are expected to be more lively than usual this year.

      Aside from the Rowley-Kline contest, there are several high-profile candidates running in the 6th Congressional District. That seat is open because U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy is going after the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Mark Dayton.

      And more than a dozen candidates - mostly DFLers - have announced intentions to run in the 5th Congressional District, where longtime incumbent Rep. Martin Sabo is retiring.