Gov. Ritter Announces He Won't Run For Re-Election

Ritter: It's Been My Privilege And My Honor To Serve

Gov. Bill Ritter, who was in for a tough re-election fight this year, announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election.

Ritter told his cabinet Wednesday morning that he was resigning after his first term is completed because of his family reasons. He told the cabinet, "People, I think we have a leak," referring to news of his decision before he officially announced it.

Just after 11 a.m., Ritter emerged in the rotunda of the Capitol to rousing applause at the start of his statement. He was accompanied by his Lt. Governor, Barbara O'Brien.

Ritter said, "It's been my privilege and my honor to serve this great state."

"By not running for re-election, I'll be able to make the tough and unpopular decisions that need to be made," he told the crowd gathered to hear his announcement.

Later, O'Brien issued a statement that said, "I am proud to have been a part of the Ritter-O'Brien team and all that we have accomplished, but have made the personal decision not to pursue election either."

A spokeswoman for Rep. Diana DeGette issued a statement Tuesday night, saying the congresswoman, along with Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak, would call a meeting of the senior elected officials on Wednesday "to discuss how to go forward as a party."

Waak issued a statement Wednesday praising Ritter.

"We respect the Governor's decision to not seek re-election in 2010. He has been a visionary leader for Colorado, and we expect that he will continue to serve out his term with a focus on doing what is best for Colorado citizens. In the coming days we are talking with various individuals about possible candidacies for Governor. Colorado Democrats have so many fine qualified public leaders to choose from. Our goal is to commit ourselves to fielding the best candidate to represent Colorado, as we have always done and continue the goal of Leading Colorado Forward," said Waak.

The Republican National Committee in Washington quickly reacted to Ritter's announcement:

"Governor Ritter’s tax and spend policies haven't produced anything for the people of Colorado except for increased unemployment and an out of control budget. Ritter has finally realized he is unable to put Colorado back on a path to success. Last year, voters in Virginia and New Jersey rejected the Democrats’ big government policies and chose a new direction. Colorado voters are watching; Democrats across the state, including Ritter’s hand-picked Senator Michael Bennet, should start listening and keep their tax and spend ways out of Colorado, said RNC Spokeswoman Sara Sendek in an e-mail.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, considered a prime contender for the governor's post, praised Ritter's "real courage" for putting his family and solving the state's economic crisis ahead of his own political ambition.

"I think he showed real courage," the Democratic mayor said during an afternoon press conference at the Oxford Hotel. "He faced up to what he saw as the challenges between his job and his family, the issues facing the state."

Hicklenhooper, who agonized for weeks four years ago before deciding against challenging Ritter in the governor's race, said: "We've been down this road before."

But, with his wife and young son standing beside him, the popular mayor said he called the press conference because so many people were asking if he'll run for governor.

The short answer?

"We don't know," he said. "But we know the questions that we're asking … We understand how the decision can be made."

"I think certainly in the next few days, within a week we can make a decision on which direction we want to go," Hickenlooper added.

"Certainly that decision affects our ability to balance family and job," Hickenlooper said, glancing at his wife, Helen Thorpe, and 7-year-old son Teddy.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is also considered to be a formidable potential candidate for governor.

But Salazar swept aside questions about whether he'll run during a Wednesday Interior Department teleconference about reforming the program for selling oil and gas leases on public lands.

"Bill Ritter has been a devoted servant of the public at great sacrifice to self and family," Salazar said.

"I have enjoyed our work together in Colorado during my time as attorney general, as United States senator and as secretary of the interior. I wish him and his family all the best and I thank him for his service."

Because the story broke out of Washington, some political analysts believe the pressure came from there, not locally. The Democratic party hasn't had an easy week. The all but assured Democratic nominee for governor in Michigan, Lt. Gov. John Cherry, ended his bid Tuesday, according to ABC News. Sen. Byron Dorgan, of North Dakota, also has announced he will not seek re-election this year.

Ritter will be bowing out of the 2010 race just seven months after he had said he would run again. That announcement came despite accusations that he had broken campaign promises.

The political blog Taegan Goddard's Political Wire was first to post that Ritter sent his campaign staff home in the middle of the day Tuesday.

"While Ritter is the incumbent, his poll numbers have been flaccid all year, and he hasn't done himself any favors with the Democratic rank-and-file over the past four years with his borderline-hostile relationship with organized labor in the state," according to a later posting on the Web site The Swing State Project.

When Ritter announced in June that he would run again, he said he had made progress on major issues including education and health care. But Ritter has vetoed several union bills while in office, a move that has prompted many unions to say they may not support him for another term.

Critics had said Ritter was one of the weakest chief executives ever in Colorado, with no sense of direction. They pointed to Ritter's low public approval rating and claimed he was even vulnerable in his party.

But supporters said that Ritter has shown "great leadership," coined the phrase "new energy economy" and brought a lot of jobs to the state. They also said he had to make some hard choices with difficult economic conditions.

ABC News reported that former Rep. Scott McInnis is the likely GOP nominee and will have a far clearer shot at becoming governor in an open seat race. Colorado is likely to now be a potentially good pickup opportunity for Republicans.

However, Democrats are far from ready to concede the race just yet, ABC News reported. Former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff has been a thorn in the national Democrats side with his primary challenge to appointed Sen. Michael Bennet. Several Democrats believe Romanoff will now take a serious look at the governor’s race instead of continuing his Senate battle.

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