Topeka — Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Clay Blair said Saturday he would not be a candidate in the Republican race for governor.
"The delicate funding situation for the state's colleges and universities demands my full attention," Blair said.
Blair, 56, Olathe, was seen by some as a candidate who could galvanize moderate Republicans after Kansas Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall dropped out of the race last month.
Though encouraged by many Republicans to run, Blair faced a name recognition challenge with the Aug. 6 primary election only three months away.
Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, praised Blair, saying he had done an excellent job on the regents and would have been a formidable candidate.
Kerr, who is also considering a run for governor, said that if he did enter the campaign, Blair would be a key adviser to him on higher education and public school issues. "I like Clay Blair," he said.
House Speaker Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan, another possible candidate for governor, had similar praise.
Glasscock and Kerr have worked with Blair on higher-education initiatives, including the approval of a bill to issue $120 million in bonds to build research facilities at Kansas University and two other schools. That proposal is awaiting Gov. Bill Graves' signature.
Blair said he had decided not to run because of escalating problems in funding of higher education.
Because the Legislature has yet to increase taxes to fund a $4.4 billion state budget, Graves has said he will prepare to cut spending by 8 percent, which would mean a $56 million cut to higher education.
Blair said such a cut would be devastating, and he called on lawmakers to approve the taxes necessary to balance the budget.