Former State Auditor Crit Luallen, long thought to be one of the strongest Democratic candidates for governor in 2015, said Thursday she is not running.
Luallen said in a statement to the media that "after careful deliberation, I have decided not to enter the 2015 governor's race."
"I remain passionate about Kentucky and its potential for the future," Luallen said. "But in the end, I had to make the decision based on what I thought was best for me personally and my family. I am blessed with a wonderful marriage, a large extended family and a circle of good friends. My husband, Lynn, and I both have our health and a lot we want to do and enjoy together. This simply wasn't the right time in our lives for us to make the decision to enter the race."
Luallen said she wanted to "express my profound gratitude to the many wonderful supporters who have given me so much encouragement to consider the race."
"It was that encouragement which made this a very difficult decision and one that required careful consideration," she said. "I am optimistic that others will step forward with the leadership and vision to move our state forward."
Luallen's announcement brings to a close Frankfort's hottest parlor game, will-she-or-won't-she, as other potential Democratic candidates, including Attorney General Jack Conway and State Auditor Adam Edelen, waited to see whether Luallen would enter the race.
Both men have told the Herald-Leader that Luallen's decision would not prevent them from running, but her decision not to run opens up more paths to victory for them.
In a statement Thursday, Conway called Luallen "the gold standard for public service and for friendship."
Edelen issued a statement calling Luallen "Kentucky's greatest civil servant," and said her decision to not run would affect his own decision whether to run.
"As excited as I am about ensuring that the 2015 governor's race contrasts the future with the familiar, I'm committed to maintaining a laser focus on my work as the taxpayer watchdog," Edelen said. "In that spirit, I'll have no announcements of a political nature until the conclusion of the examination of the Jefferson County Public Schools."
In early March, cn|2's Pure Politics reported that Luallen had taken a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with consultants and her pollster, Celinda Lake.
Luallen said shortly after that visit that she was putting the pieces in place should she decide to run, but she didn't see a "magic date" for announcing a candidacy.
"As I've said, I'm taking all the steps necessary that if I decide to run, I will have everything in place to hit the ground running," Luallen said at a Democratic women's dinner in Louisville in early March. "So I have not made a final decision yet, but I'm a pretty methodical person. All of my friends know that well. Sometimes too methodical. So I'm taking all the steps to make sure all the pieces would fit together."
Luallen holds the respect of most Democrats in Frankfort, but some of them expressed concern that she isn't known well enough around the state to win a Democratic primary.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo told the Herald-Leader in March that Luallen is a "professional bureaucrat" who "can't win that race."
On Thursday, he called Luallen a "fine public servant" and a "dedicated worker for the commonwealth."
Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.