Republican Lt. Gov. Loren Leman announced on Tuesday he will not run for governor or seek re-election to his office.
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Leman, 55, a civil engineer, fisherman and father of three children, said he is choosing to spend more time with his family.
"Although my decision not to run this year has been in the making over the past several months, our family concluded our discussions over Memorial Day Weekend," he said.
Leman planned to make an announcement in February, but waited, saying he needed more time to discuss his plans with his family.
With the June 1 deadline to file as a candidate now hours away, the lieutenant governor is one of several people in office making crucial decisions at the last moment. His decision comes shortly after Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski said on Friday he will run for re-election.
Leman said a number of factors went into his choice.
"It was a huge decision for us," he said.
He added that several hundred Alaskans were urging him to either seek another term or the governor's office.
"Quite frankly, their support has made our decision more difficult. I know my announcement will disappoint many people - but it likely will bring relief to others," he said.
In the meantime, Leman said he will focus on finishing his term and exploring opportunities in the private sector.
Leman's exit from the lieutenant governor's office will end his 17-year career in public service. He served four years as a state representative and nine years as a state senator from Anchorage, in addition to his four years as lieutenant governor.
Murkowski and Leman were billed as running mates in 2002, with Leman edging out former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin in the primary.
The relationship between the two was seen as sour after Leman did not endorse Murkowski's his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, for the U.S. Senate seat Murkowski vacated to become governor in 2002. Leman backed former state Rep. Mike Miller, R-North Pole.
In a letter sent to media outlets Tuesday, Murkowski said Leman was an asset to his administration.
"The people of Alaska have benefited greatly by his dedication and principled consideration of a multitude of critical issues," he wrote.
The more rewarding moments of Leman's term were his work on the Faith-Based & Community Initiatives project, as well as serving as the state's representative on the Denali Commission, he said.
So far, two candidates have filed to run in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor: Wasilla businessman Troy Maulden and former state Rep. Sean Parnell of Anchorage.
There are four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. Joining the field Tuesday was State Sen. Donald Olson of Nome.
Olson, a small business owner, doctor and pilot, is the second Democratic legislator to enter the lieutenant governor's race in the last two days. Rep. Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage announced Monday he would withdraw from the governor's race to run for lieutenant governor with former Gov. Tony Knowles, also of Anchorage.
Olson said his background and his roots in rural Alaska added a new dimension to the race.
"The thing I bring to the ticket is not just education and involvement in the medical and aviation community but also a rural perspective," he told The Associated Press.
Olson said he discussed running for governor with supporters. But with a new marriage and a child on the way, he decided the governor's race would be too time-consuming.
"I thought it would be a strain on the family," he said.
Olson will not be giving up his Senate seat to run for higher office. He was elected to a second 4-year term in 2004.
The other Democratic candidates are Betty Rollins of North Pole and Kay Rollison of Anchorage.
Independent candidate Andrew Halcro said he will announce his running mate today in Anchorage.
"I think the voters of Alaska will have some good choices," said Parnell.
Andrew Petty can be reached at email@example.com.
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