DENVER (AP) — Saying he needs to spend more time with his family, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter announced Wednesday he won't seek re-election this year - a move that he said would free him politically to make "tough and unpopular decisions" in the months ahead.
A Democrat who is widely considered a rising star in the party, Ritter announced his decision at the state Capitol surrounded by three of his children.
The former Denver district attorney - who was elected in 2006 in this pivotal swing-voting state - said he needed to spend more time with his family. Ritter has four children and is married.
"I would say it this way, I haven't found the proper balance where my family is concerned," Ritter said.
The governor said he thought about retiring from politics over the winter break, saying he did "a lot of soul-searching."
Ritter said that in his final year he'll be freer to make tough decision if he isn't facing re-election.
"By not running for re-election, I'll be able to make the tough and unpopular decisions that need to be made," Ritter said, citing a state budget shortfall.
Colorado Democrats planned a closed-door meeting later Wednesday to discuss a new candidate for governor this year. Two Republicans are seeking the office, including former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis.
Ritter insisted fellow Democrats didn't ask him to consider leaving office.
"Nobody's ever pressured me to not run," Ritter said.
In Washington, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar - a former Colorado U.S. senator - refused to comment when asked if he'd be interested in the governor's position.
"Bill Ritter has been a devoted servant of the public at great sacrifice to self and family," Salazar said in a conference call with reporters. "I thank him for his service."