Patrick Brown intends to drop out of Ontario PC leadership race, campaign sources say

Patrick Brown announced Monday he is pulling out of the Ontario Progressive Conservative race, citing the attacks that his friends and family have endured during his brief candidacy, and a need to fight what he calls “slanderous” of sexual misconduct.

Sources on his campaign earlier claimed he and his family have faced death and other forms of harassment, and that his mother has been hospitalized because of stress.

Brown’s decision caps a bizarre, roller-coaster few weeks for the , beginning with his resignation as leader last month, then a dramatic decision to enter the contest to fill his old job.

The campaign’s internal polling, released to the Post, suggested that Brown was doing surprisingly well, showing him tied for the first-ballot lead with legislative Christine Elliott and gaining strength.

But in a issued late Monday afternoon, Brown said he could not continue as a candidate, given his efforts to refute the “horror” of false misconduct charges, and the toll that vying for the has taken on those close to him. As well, he said his posed too much of a distraction from the party’s push to replace the Liberal government with a “pragmatic, moderate, fiscally responsible alternative.”

“I can no longer stand as a candidate in our party’s leadership race,” he said in the message posted on his Twitter account.

“I simply can not run a provincial party leadership campaign and, if successful, square off against (Premier) Kaathleen Wynne in the most important election in a generation, while at the same time continuing my fight to prove that the allegations are lies.”

Vic Fedeli, who took over as the interim Conservative leader after Brown’s resignation Jan. 24 and has been critical of Brown’s tenure in the job, welcomed the announcement Monday.

“I want to thank Patrick Brown for making the right decision for and the Ontario PC Party,” Fedeli said. “He is right to focus on clearing his name.”

One source in his campaign said the final straw was the barrage of threats he and his loved ones faced from those angry that he had rejoined the race.

His mother was admitted to hospital with chest pains Sunday, apparently tied to the anxiety of her son’s high-profile ordeal, and the reaction of some people to the situation.

Individuals have stood outside family  homes in Barrie, Ont., and screamed obscenities, accusing him of undermining the Conservative party, the campaign official said.

“I can take a punch, but it stings when it is unfairly directed at the people I love instead of me,” Brown said in his statement. “They didn’t sign up for this. It pains me to cause them this difficulty.”

He singled out a woman he called his “partner,” apparently referring to Genevieve Gualtieri, the 23-year-old mentioned in media reports as his current girlfriend.

“She never signed up to be in the public eye, yet she ended up on the front page of the Toronto Star, and the subject of an irresponsible report by a rogue MPP,” Brown said. That would seem to be a reference to a complaint filed against him by Randy , a Conservative member of the legislature, alleging various ethical breaches, including traveling with the woman as his girlfriend when she worked at Queen’s Park.

In fact, Brown says he never dated nor traveled with Gualtieri while she was an employee at the legislature.

 

 











Brown quit under pressure early the morning of Jan. 25, after CTV News aired a story in which two women accused him of sexual misconduct 10 years ago when he was a federal MP.

He has vigorously denied those allegations, is suing CTV for libel and claimed that his name had been cleared when some holes were knocked in the women’s stories.

Shortly after Brown stepped down, the party called a leadership contest to replace him, with voting scheduled to start Friday and end March 8, the result to be announced March. 10.

Just over a week ago, Brown himself stunned Ontario politics by entering that race. His rivals include Elliott, businessman and former municipal politician Doug Ford, lawyer Caroline Mulroney and parents’ advocate Tanya Granic Allen.

Meanwhile on Monday, Ontario’s integrity commissioner announced he would launch an investigation into Brown’s conduct. J. David Wake said he would investigate after PC MPP Randy Hillier last week asked for an investigation into Brown’s financial disclosures and travel, alleging the former leader contravened legislation that governs Ontario politicians’ conduct.

Brown has denied Hillier’s allegations, calling them “entirely fictional.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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