Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas fields questions from reporters at the Iowa Ag Summit on March 7, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.
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Mike Huckabee to skip Iowa straw poll

Republican presidential contender and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says that he will not participate in the August Iowa Straw Poll, an early test of 2016 support in the first caucus state.

“I have concluded this year’s Iowa Straw Poll will serve only to weaken conservative candidates and further empower the Washington ruling class and their hand-picked candidates,” he wrote in an editorial in the Des Moines Register.

Huckabee finished second in the straw poll in 2007 and went on to win the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

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Huckabee’s announcement comes after GOP establishment favorite Jeb Bush confirmed that he would sit out the contest, a move Huckabee appeared to allude to in his comments.

“It’s clear that pitting conservative candidates with limited resources against each other in a non-binding and expensive summer straw poll battle, while allowing billionaire-backed establishment candidates to sit out, will only wound and weaken the conservative candidates who best represent conservative and hard-working Iowans,” he said.

Backers of the straw poll have promised reforms to the straw poll to reduce the cost to candidates and even the playing field for those with fewer resources.

“Simply put, it is time to relegate the pay-to-play nature of the Iowa Straw Poll to the dustbin of history,” Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann said earlier this month.

But Huckabee’s move is yet another blow to the party, which has been battling calls to end the event altogether.

This story originally appeared on NBC News

Iowa and Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee to skip Iowa straw poll