Former Arkansas lieutenant governor Bill Halter dropped out of the Democratic primary for governor on Monday, clearing the way for former congressman Mike Ross.

Halter nearly beat Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in a 2010 Senate primary but was having a difficult time raising money for this effort; Ross outraised him $2 million to $100,000 in the second quarter.

Halter said in an e-mail to supporters that he felt it best for the party if he stepped aside.

"...Since we announced our gubernatorial campaign, another strong candidate has entered the primary election, and in order to avoid a divisive primary and to help unite the Democratic Party, I am ending my campaign for governor," Halter said. "I congratulate Mike Ross on a great start to his campaign, and I will be working hard to elect him and other Democratic nominees for office in the coming election."

Not only does Halter clear the way for Ross, but he might have been a less-palatable nominee in Republican-trending Arkansas. Halter ran to Lincoln's left in their 2010 primary and was certainly the more liberal candidate in the 2014 primary.

Ross, a Blue Dog Democrat, is trying to hold the governor's seat for Democrats in a red state that has a strong Democratic tradition but has been trending red at the congressional and state legislative level. Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is term-limited.

Former congressman Asa Hutchinson leads the GOP primary, which also features former Senate candidate Curtis Coleman and state Rep. Debra Hobbs.

A February poll showed Hutchinson at 43 percent and Ross at 38 percent.