Topeka Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer said Wednesday that he won't seek the Republican nomination for governor because of family concerns.
Sherrer, the state's longest-serving lieutenant governor, said last week he was considering running as speculation grew that Attorney General Carla Stovall would drop out of the GOP race. Stovall ended her campaign Monday and urged her running mate, House Speaker Kent Glasscock, to seek the Republican nomination.
Sherrer said he wouldn't run because his eight years in state government, including six as lieutenant governor, had consumed too much time.
"I found, to be honest with you, too many days with my family that I've missed," Sherrer told reporters at a Statehouse news conference. "There are too many days gone by that I haven't seen friends."
He added: "I owe my family some things."
Sherrer did not endorse any other candidate and said he would not run for lieutenant governor again. He also ruled out serving as a cabinet secretary in the next administration and said he won't become a lobbyist.
"You'll be hearing me say, 'Do you want fries with that?' before you hear me say, 'Will you vote for this bill?"' Sherrer told reporters.
Sherrer decided last year against running for governor and joined many GOP moderates in endorsing Stovall, whom many in the party considered the leading contender.
But he told reporters Wednesday that he had received encouragement to enter the race after Stovall dropped out. He said he believed he could have won the race and been a strong governor but, "It is not in the best interest of either my family or myself."
Before Stovall entered the race, Sherrer said moderates need to unite behind a single candidate to prevent State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger, considered the conservatives' choice, from winning the nomination.
Told of Sherrer's announcement, Shallenburger said: "I think it's amazing that someone has press conference after press conference to say they're not running. Maybe we'll have one to say we're running again."
Meanwhile, the state Governmental Ethics Commission was meeting Thursday to decide whether Glasscock can claim funds raised for Stovall's now-abandoned campaign.
The question arose quickly after Stovall left the race. Glasscock staffers maintain Kansas law allowed the House speaker to claim the funds if he runs for governor.
Last week, ethics staff said their informal opinion was the same, because Glasscock was part of Stovall's ticket and brought money to the campaign. Glasscock was a candidate for governor but left the race in November. However, the staff wanted the commission to rule.
The commission had scheduled a meeting for May 7 but expedited the meeting. Executive Director Carol Williams said commission members wanted to settle the issue quickly, before Stovall's campaign funds are claimed and spent.
Stovall's campaign reported beginning the year with nearly $302,000 on hand, but officials have declined to say how much was in her treasury when she dropped out.
Under Kansas law, when a candidate closes or "terminates" a campaign account, the money must be returned to donors, contributed to charity, sent to a political party or donated to the state. In claiming the money, Glasscock would keep Stovall's campaign account open.
In the GOP race already are Wichita Mayor Bob Knight, who has avoided ideological labels, and former Eudora schools superintendent Dan Bloom, who filed papers Friday.
Glasscock is expected to announce his plans by the end of the week, though his staff has said he is strongly inclined to re-enter the race.
Senate President Dave Kerr plans to make his intentions known after the Legislature adjourns in May.
Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius is the only declared Democratic candidate seeking to succeed Gov. Bill Graves, who is barred from running for a third term.
Graves appointed Sherrer, 61, lieutenant governor in 1996, and Sherrer ran on Graves' re-election ticket in 1998. Sherrer has served as secretary of commerce and housing since Graves took office in January 1995.