BOSTON — Former Newton Mayor Setti Warren ended his campaign for governor on Thursday, shrinking the field of lesser-known Democrats hoping to challenge Republican incumbent Charlie Baker in November.
In his surprise announcement posted on Facebook, Warren cited difficulties he had faced in financing a competitive campaign.
"Even though we raised a lot of money from small-dollar donations, raising the kind of money we need to build a grassroots campaign that can take on Charlie Baker has been our biggest challenge from Day 1," Warren wrote. "Today, I have come to the difficult realization that this challenge is insurmountable."
Warren's withdrawal leaves only two Democrats, Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie, vying for their party's nomination to face Baker, whom polls have shown to be consistently popular with voters, including many Democrats.
Massie, a businessman and environmental activist from Somerville, was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994. In an interview, he said he was surprised by Warren's decision but felt good about its implications for his campaign.
"We are going to continue to do what we have been doing from the beginning, which is making the case for a bold, progressive future," said Massie.
Gonzalez, who served as state Secretary of Administration and Finance under former Gov. Deval Patrick, thanked Warren in a statement Thursday for "highlighting the important issue of economic inequality."
"I also want to thank his enthusiastic supporters," Gonzalez said. "I ask for their support so that together we can make Massachusetts a leader again and make a meaningful difference in people's lives."
Warren was the state's first popularly elected black mayor in Massachusetts, leading the Boston suburb for eight years. He briefly ran for the U.S. Senate in 2011 before dropping out and backing Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
The Iraq war veteran and one-time aide to former Sen. John Kerry was initially seen as a front-runner in a field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates that lacked prominent names, as other better-known Democrats, including Attorney General Maura Healey, passed on the race.
Warren received several endorsements along the way, including that of Michael Dukakis, the state's former governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.
In his statement, Warren did not throw his support behind either of the other Democratic hopefuls, but said: "I have always told myself that we could beat Charlie Baker by following (Patrick's) advice: Stand up for what we believe and organize our communities."
Warren's campaign account showed a balance of $51,644 as of April 15, compared to just under $7.9 million for Baker, according to records from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. In the two week period before April 15, Warren had raised about $16,000 compared to the more than $250,000 pulled in by the incumbent.
Neither Gonzalez nor Massie had fared significantly better in raising cash - Gonzalez's campaign showed a balance of $127,418 through mid-April, while Massie's was at just $20,831.
"It's people power versus insider cash," said Massie, who predicted he would benefit from a "blue wave" - a Democratic surge many analysts have projected for November - to sweep him into office if he wins the September primary.
Democrats contend Baker is vulnerable in part because of recent issues in state government, including reports of overtime abuse and financial irregularities in the Massachusetts State Police.