DENVER — Gov. Bill Ritter confirmed an hour ago that he will not seek re-election this year. Addressing reports that stretched across the national political mediasphere last night and this morning, the governor told the crowd packed into the west lobby of the Capitol that he was seeking to re-establish the balance between his professional and personal lives.
“I have worked in public service for most of 30 years,” he said. “I’ve had to balance the various aspects of my life … but it has been my family who has sacrificed the most. I haven’t found a proper balance.”
Ritter’s voice cracked occasionally during the 20-minute address. He said he hadn’t been pressured either to stay in or exit the race by dipping poll numbers or rumored coming revelations related to the Cory Voorhis case, in which Ritter as district attorney was accused of handing out lenient sentences to illegal immigrants.
Ritter said that he simply had been wearing many hats for a long time, that he has long been government official, political candidate and family man.
“I’m announcing today that I’m giving up one of those roles: candidate… This helps me make my family a priority.”
He also said he thought the decision would allow him to focus on governing rather than campaigning.
“I can now make the best decisions for Colorado free and clear of the bitter partisan politics” that he said were already defining the election season. “I’m unencumbered. I’ll be better able to move our agenda through.”
The agenda matched the vision he said he outlined five years ago in his campaign to become governor. He said that vision included developing the new energy economy in Colorado as a hub for the nation. He also pointed to developing the aerospace and biotech industries.
“Colorado is on the road to recovery, coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression and it has been my privilege and honor to serve…”
Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer told the Colorado Independent that he agreed that the move could well strengthen Democratic legislative efforts this session.
“We’ve been working very closely on the agenda. I am very confident. This doesn’t change our game plan at all,” he said. “We’re focusing on balancing the budget. We’re focusing on economic development. On looking very closely at where k-12 and higher-education budgets can be cut.
“The governor is not going anywhere anytime soon. He has the power to veto bad bills. He is unencumbered now. He can speak his mind and make the kind of decisions we have to make this year. [He can] make the kind of bold proposals and cuts that candidates for office shy away from.”
House Majority Leader Paul Weissman, D-Louisville, sympathized with the difficulty of Ritter’s decision not to run for a second term, telling the Colorado independent that “it is a lot harder to say no than it is to say yes.” He added that he thought it would clearly have been better had the announcement come “three months ago.”
The legislative agenda and budget is already in place, he said and the late start “will clearly pose more challenges for fundraising.”
Opening his address as cameras rolled and light bulbs flashed, Ritter said he had met with his cabinet at 9:30 this morning to talk about his already widely reported decision.
“I told them, you know, I think we have a leak.”
He also said he had made the decision not to run again over the holiday break.
“I was fully committed to the campaign. I took time over the break. I took time to consider the costs– what it would mean for my family… I told my staff: Never give a busy person time off to think.”
UPDATE: The governor’s office has released the full text of his remarks:
Almost five years ago, in the spring of 2005, I began running for governor of Colorado.
My campaign theme — the Colorado Promise — was a deeply held belief that we as a state were not living up to our full potential.
So we laid out a vision to create a New Energy Economy, to build up other Industries of the Future like aerospace and biosciences, to reform our education and healthcare systems, and to modernize our transportation system.
Today, even in the face of the worst recession since the Great Depression, that vision is becoming a reality. We are leading Colorado forward. People all across Colorado are fulfilling the Colorado Promise, and Colorado is on the road to recovery.
It is my privilege and my honor to serve as governor of the greatest state in America.
Over the past years, but particularly over this last year, I have attempted to balance many roles in my life. I have been the governor, I have been a candidate for re-election, and I have also been a husband and a father.
I am proud of my work as governor. I am proud of the direction of the state.
I am proud of my campaign, of the staff we have built, and of our re-election efforts.
It is my family who has sacrificed the most — my wife, Jeannie, and my four kids. I have not found the proper balance where my family is concerned, and I have not made them the priority they should be.
Ending one of my roles — as a candidate for re-election in 2010 — will allow me to concentrate on the things that are most important: taking care of my family, and taking care of Colorado.
While this decision allows me to make my family a priority, it also allows me to focus on keeping the state budget balanced and keeping Colorado on the road to recovery.
The Colorado economy is getting better, but we still have budget-cutting to do on the ’09-’10 and ’10-’11 budgets, and we’ll be submitting the ’11-’12 budget in November.
By not running for re-election, I’ll be able to make the tough and unpopular decisions that simply need to get made — free and clear of the sometimes bitter partisan politics of an election year.
We’re positioning Colorado for a strong recovery with our New Energy Economy, our job-creation strategies and our education reforms.
The rest of the country is looking to Colorado on everything from the economy to energy to education.
We’re in a great position, and we’re on the right path. I look forward to spending the next 12 months keeping our budget balanced and our economy growing.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me the honor and the privilege to serve as your governor — and for all that you have done to help lead Colorado forward.