August 27, 2003 - Posted at: 11:15 a.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Governor Huckabee says he won't run for U.S. Senate next year.
Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln is up for re-election in 2004, and Huckabee was thought to be a strong potential Republican challenger.
Huckabee says he wants to concentrate on reforming education in the state, something he can't devote full attention to if he is a candidate. He says he wants to focus on what's best for the children of Arkansas.
A relaxed Huckabee spoke with his wife, Janet, at his right side. Wednesday's news conference was announced only a couple of hours before its 11 a.m. start time.
The 48-year-old Huckabee is in the first year of his second full four-year term. He had been leaning against a run against Lincoln, but had not firmly ruled it out.
No prominent state Republicans have indicated a desire to run. Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, who is currently an undersecretary for Homeland Security, says though an aide he won't enter the race.
Huckabee said he believed he could win if he challenged Lincoln and that it's a fear of winning not losing that's keeping him out. Huckabee says he wouldn't want to commute to and from Washington, DC.
Huckabee says his decision to not enter a race for the US Senate next year will give other Republicans a chance to consider campaigns against Lincoln.
Huckabee speculated that some Republicans might have been delaying their own announcements while waiting for the governor to make his decision. While Huckabee has been leaning against a bid, he had not formally ruled one out until the announcement.
Huckabee mentioned Lieutenant Governor Winthrop Paul Rockefeller by name, but noted that the state's second-ranking constitutional officer has not indicated any interest in running against Lincoln.
Asa Hutchinson, a former Arkansas congressman and current Undersecretary for Homeland Security, has been discussed as a Republican candidate. But Hutchinson said he's not interested in running.
Republicans lost an Arkansas U.S. Senate seat last year when Democrat Mark Pryor beat Tim Hutchinson.
Other prominent state Republicans include Lieutenant Governor Winthrop Rockefeller and 3rd District Congressman John Boozman. Neither has expressed an interest in running.