Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller announced Tuesday afternoon that he’s dropping out of the governor’s race because he needs a bone marrow transplant to treat a rare blood cancer that often leads to leukemia.
The diagnosis of unclassified myeloproliferative disorder — basically, too many white blood cells — came in April, Rockefeller said, after rounds of tests at UAMS and the Mayo Clinic. He'd sought a diagnosis because of unexplained bruising.
Rockefeller, who’s 56, said he initially thought he could control the condition with medication and continue with his campaign. But the medications haven’t worked, so the bone marrow transplant is “essential,” he said. .
Just last week, Rockefeller had reported some $260,000 in campaign contributions, a lead of more than $75,000 over his only announced opponent for the Republcan nomination, former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson.
Rockefeller, who seemed upbeat and joked about missing duck season this year, said he’ll be selecting a transplant center over the next couple of weeks. Bone marrow transplants usually have a recovery time at least five to six months, and up to a year. Putting his campaign on hold for that long wouldn’t be fair to supporters, Rockefeller said, and he made the final decision last night to end his campaign. He said he’ll be writing to campaign donors to offer to return their contributions.
“Obviously it’s been a difficult decision,” he said. “It’s not something I’ve done lightly. I’ve been thinking for quite awhile about the ramifications of the diagnosis.”
Meanwhile, he said, he doesn’t plan to step down as lieutenant governor, and he’ll support the Republican candidate for governor — he didn’t name Asa Hutchinson specifically — as actively as his health allows.
“I will stay in contact,” he said. “This isn’t something where I’ll be incapacitated.”
And he didn’t rule out another campaign himself sometime in the future.
“This isn’t the last race that’s ever going to be held,” he said.
Unclassified myeloproliferative disorder means that his body is producing so many extra white blood cells that they’re crowding out the red blood cells and platelets, Rockefeller said. It hasn’t progressed to leukemia yet, and Rockefeller said he has “no reason to doubt” that the bone marrow transplant will work.