Jason Larrabee, a one-time top aide to embattled Republican Congressman John Doolittle, abruptly dropped his candidacy for a state Assembly seat today and endorsed former state Sen. Jim Nielsen.
Larrabee had intended to seek the seat now held by Republican Doug LaMalfa, who would be forced out of the Legislature by term limits next year unless voters pass a ballot measure easing the limits.
Larrabee's pullout comes as federal investigators probe Doolittle's connections to disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Sacramento Bee reported on its website Wednesday that the FBI has recently contacted several former Doolittle aides for information as part of their investigation, seeking details about the Doolittle-Abramoff connection.
Nielsen was elected to the Senate in 1978, defeating Democratic incumbent John Dunlap, and later became Senate Republican leader but was defeated in a bid for a fourth Senate term in 1990 by Democrat Mike Thompson, now a North Coast congressman. More recently, Nielsen, a former agricultural chemical salesman, also is a former member of the state parole board.
LaMalfa's 2nd Assembly District covers all of parts of nine counties stretching to the Oregon border north of Sacramento and has a 16-percentage point Republican voter registration edge. LaMalfa is among the local political figures who have endorsed Nielsen.
Larrabee could not be reached for comment.