LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler announced Thursday he would not seek the Democratic nomination for governor next year, ruling out a possible second campaign against Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
Fletcher defeated Chandler in the 2003 race for governor.
Chandler, who won re-election to his congressional seat in November, scheduled a 4 p.m. press conference at his office in Lexington to discuss his decision.
"I am humbled by the support of the voters of central Kentucky and I intend to honor their support by giving my full commitment to the job I was elected to do," Chandler said in a press release.
Chandler is the third high-profile Democrat to say he would not enter the 2007 race. State Auditor Crit Luallen and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, both of whom had been considering a run for the seat, announced recently they would not seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Fletcher for a second term.
Chandler, the grandson of two-term Kentucky governor A.B. "Happy" Chandler, said he wanted to continue in Washington given the recent Democratic takeover in Congress.
"I have the opportunity to do so much more for my constituents and for the people of Kentucky," Chandler said in the statement.
In an ironic twist, Chandler's congressional career started after he lost the governor's race to Fletcher, who had previously represented the district in Washington.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who said he is considering a run, said Chandler called him about the decision on Wednesday night.
"I understand his decision," Stumbo said in a telephone interview. "I did try to change his mind one last time because I thought he would have been a very good candidate for our party."
Stumbo said he has not made a decision on whether to make a gubernatorial run himself. That decision could come after the holidays, he said.
"I personally don't think that there's a rush to make that decision," Stumbo said. "I think that decision can wait by as late as after the holidays - by any candidate, not just me."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved