WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Carolyn Maloney is giving up her bid for the U.S. Senate. The congresswoman from New York City announced Friday she would not challenge the state's junior senator, fellow Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.
"These are unique times with unparalleled challenges and running for the Senate is a full time job. Giving up for a critical period of time, the things I do best - passing legislation, working on the issues, serving New Yorkers would put politics before policy for the next year and a half," Maloney said in a statement.
Gillibrand, a former congresswoman from upstate New York, was named by Gov. David Paterson in January to succeed Hillary Clinton, who stepped down to become secretary of state.
The White House, hoping to prevent a primary fight next year, tried to clear the field for Gillibrand, who will run in 2010 to fill the final two years of Clinton's term. Steve Israel, another congressman from New York who was considering a run against Gillibrand, decided against such a bid after lobbying by the White House.
It was a different story with Maloney, who earlier this summer was leaning heavily towards challeging Gillibrand. She hired staffers and advisers, and appeared close to formally announcing her bid.
Maloney's strategy was to portray Gillibrand as too moderate to conservative for more liberal New York voters on key issues such as gun control and immigration. A Quinnipiac University survey conducted earlier this summer indicated that Gillibrand slightly trailed Maloney in a hypothetical Democratic primary matchup.
But last month Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, backed Gillibrand. Another incident last month was also damaging to the congresswoman's chances: Maloney had to apologize for using a racial epithet in an interview, in recounting comments in a phone call she had received. Maloney used the full racial slur in an interview with the Web site City Hall while taking aim at Gillibrand's record.
Maloney said her move to give up a Senate bid won't affect her efforts in the House of Representatives.
"I make this decision, not because I fear a tough political fight, but because I love one. In this Congress, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to enact meaningful health care reform, restore the trust and confidence in our financial systems, and take a step toward a clean energy future," said Maloney.
New York's senior senator praised Maloney.
"We all appreciate how difficult a decision this was for Congresswoman Maloney. She is on a very fast and sharp trajectory in the House, where she already chairs the Joint Economic Committee," said Senator Chuck Schumer, in a statement.
Rep. Maloney quits quest for U.S. Senate seat
Statement from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
In seriously assessing a Senate Campaign, I have been inspired by all the calls of support I have received from a broad array of people from all over the state and encouraged by my strong showing in the polls.
However, these are unique times with unparalleled challenges and running for the Senate is a full time job. Giving up for a critical period of time, the things I do best-passing legislation, working on the issues, serving New Yorkers would put politics before policy for the next year and a half.
Working this past week to provide meaningful health care reform and to advance important legislation to help those who lost their health because of 9-11 attacks, which would bring more than $11 billion to the city of New York, brought into sharp focus the importance of the work we are doing in Congress and of what is at stake for the nation.
The right decision for me and the people I represent is to stay in the House of Representatives and use the leadership positions I hold, including Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, to get things done,
I make this decision, not because I fear a tough political fight, but because I love one. In this Congress, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to enact meaningful health care reform, restore the trust and confidence in our financial systems, and take a step toward a clean energy future.
We can do all this and more, but not without a mighty effort that deserves all my focus and all my energy. I welcome the challenge of shaping those bills and passing those reforms.
I look forward to working with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and the NY delegation on behalf of our constituents, the State of New York and the American people.
I thank my family, friends and supporters for their confidence in me throughout this process. I may not be entering the race – but I will never leave the fight.