Larry Koman, a Bakersfield businessman who had planned to run for the open Ward 5 seat on the Bakersfield City Council, announced Wednesday he would end his campaign.

He threw his support behind candidate Bruce Freeman.

“I care deeply about the future of our city. The possibility of a labor union organizer, and the out of town special interests he represents, tricking their way into representing Ward 5 on the Council would be disastrous,” a press release from Koman’s campaign stated. “That’s why I believe the business community and private sector stakeholders must be united behind one pro-free market candidate. It is for this reason I am announcing my endorsement of Bruce Freeman as the candidate that can unify Ward 5 as the consensus candidate. The City Council of Bakersfield is not for sale to out of area special interests.”

The target of Koman’s ire is Ryan Nance, a carpenter and trade union president, who is also running for the Ward 5 seat.

Nance’s campaign responded to Koman’s criticism with a statement.

“Rather than bash the Great American workforce, or take credit for their achievements, as Mr. Freeman does, we should be praising the American worker, supporting them, and defending them. That is exactly what Ryan Nance has done all of his adult life and will continue to do so on the Bakersfield City Council,” the statement read.

Koman’s move solidifies a three person slate of candidates ahead of Friday’s 5 p.m. nomination filing deadline.

Freeman, the retired president of developer Castle & Cooke’s mainland division, Nance and stay-at-home dad Noel Pineo are the three certified candidates in the race.

Koman joins Lily Nahama and Ty Hudgens as potential candidates who pulled nomination papers and later dropped out of the race.

In the press release Koman stated that he will be returning all donations made to his campaign, paying the expenses he has incurred so far out of his pocket and making a personal donation to Freeman’s campaign.

The Ward 5 race has already gotten heated.

On Monday Nance submitted a request to the Kern County District Attorney’s office to investigate Freeman for voter fraud, based on information that Freeman lived mostly in Bakersfield while he was registered to vote and cast ballots at a home in Newport Beach.

Freeman said Nance was launching a smear campaign to distract voters from the skills and experience Freeman can bring to the table.

Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green confirmed, Wednesday evening, that her office has received Nance’s request for an investigation and is working to obtain more information.

“We just started the investigation this morning,” she said.

Rumors that her office had dismissed Nance’s claims are not true, Green said.

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