Topeka Lt. Gov. John Moore, a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party to run with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, announced Wednesday he won't run again.
The announcement throws some excitement into the governor's race, which so far has lacked many surprises.
"This is going to be a fun month," State Republican Party Chairman Tim Shallenburger said. "Running mates have to be chosen, filing deadline is coming up, and then it is off to the races."
Candidates must file by June 12 to run in the Aug. 1 political primaries.
Six Republican candidates are vying for the nomination to face Sebelius in the November general election. The major three candidates are Sen. Jim Barnett of Emporia; Ken Canfield of Overland Park, who is a writer and founder of the National Center for Fathering ; and former House speaker and former lobbyist Robin Jennison of Healy.
Sebelius said she would announce a replacement for Moore by the end of the month.
Moore, 62, said working in Topeka while his wife of 39 years, Marty, remained in Wichita was too much of a strain.
" ... the separation from Marty and our home which has been the case for over three years has been difficult for me and has become more so the longer it has continued," Moore said in a letter to Sebelius. "Simply stated, I have decided it's time to go home at the end of this term."
The term ends in January.
Moore praised Sebelius' leadership and said he would be happy to help her re-election campaign.
He added that most folks didn't realize the dire budget conditions that Sebelius faced when she entered office in 2003.
"We had $12 million in ending balances when we came into office. Our ending balances are now $600 million plus with no tax increase, and we have made a substantial investment in K through 12 education," he said.
Replacement to be announced
Moore had informed Sebelius April 10 of his decision, but they decided not to announce until the Legislature finished its session earlier this month.
"She's been looking for the best possible partner for the state for the next four years," Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said.
Moore was something of a surprise pick when Sebelius, a Democrat, ran in 2002 because he was a Republican. He switched parties to join the ticket.
Corcoran said Sebelius could pick a Republican again.
"Party labels are not an issue," she said.
Moore said he would remain a Democrat.
He said whoever is named to the Sebelius ticket "has to bring integrity and a reputation that transcends partisan politics."
Democrats close to Sebelius wouldn't speculate on possible choices.
House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg was mentioned, but he downplayed any consideration. Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said he looked forward to helping Sebelius as a state senator.
"The bottom line is the first time she made a good choice, and I'm confident that she will make a good choice this time," Hensley said.
Bob Beatty, assistant political science professor at Washburn University, said Moore's replacement was an important pick because that person could become governor. If Sebelius wins re-election she could be in line for a federal appointment, a race for U.S. Senate or even part of a White House ticket in 2008, he said.
"The Democrats may want to look at the lieutenant governor as someone who they might be able to showcase and build up some credentials," Beatty said. He said one possibility would be Chris Biggs, the state securities commissioner who ran a close race for attorney general in 2002.
Moore was seen as a savvy choice for Sebelius, who came from the minority party and whose experience was mostly in government as a legislator and insurance commissioner.
Moore brought to the ticket a Republican background, Wichita address and private sector experience from a key Kansas industry as an executive vice president with Cessna.
Moore and Sebelius had become friends while serving on a state board that oversaw programs funded through the state's tobacco settlement.
During his tenure as lieutenant governor, Moore focused on economic issues and spearheaded the state's efforts during the recent military base realignment round in which Kansas came out ahead.
"The economy is robust and our military presence in Kansas will see tremendous growth," Moore said.
"We're also on the verge of some real breakthroughs in lowering the cost of health care by cutting administrative costs," he said, referring to his chairmanship of the Governor's Health Care Cost Containment Commission.
When first elected, Moore also served as secretary of commerce.