DES MOINES | Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch picked up the endorsement Thursday of a potential rival who dropped out of the race and announced plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 instead.

The decision by former state Rep. Bob Krause gives Hatch, a state senator from Des Moines, a cleaner shot at the Democratic nomination for governor in June. State Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, announced last month that he and his wife were going through divorce proceedings, and shortly afterward he dropped out of the race.

“I could see a victory in the primary. I think that was starting to build and I was starting to get momentum,” Krause told a group of reporters at a Statehouse news conference Thursday morning. “But then I looked at where either Jack, or I, would be when the June primary was over. We would be, basically, depleted, exhausted and facing the $10 million man.”

The “$10 million man” is incumbent Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who has not officially announced his intention to seek re-election, although he has had campaign staff working for several months and continues to raise funds.

Krause had not officially entered the race for governor. Instead, his campaign had been officially in the exploratory phase for several months, during which time he traveled the state in an effort to gain support for his candidacy.

Going forward, Krause said he plans to act as a surrogate for the Hatch campaign and encouraged other Democrats to rally around Hatch’s effort.

Hatch said Krause’s endorsement is the start of “building a coalition” based on “policy and good politics” that would put him in the governor’s office in 2015.

“I’m even more pleased that Bob decided it was important for all Democrats to come together as soon as possible so that we can assemble the broadest coalition to move Iowa past Terry Branstad’s legacy of failure,” Hatch said.