In Michigan Governor's Race, Democratic Frontrunner Passes on Race to Succeed Granholm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports: In a sign of the tough political environment facing Democrats in Michigan, Lt. Gov. John Cherry (D) has decided not to try to succeed Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D).

Cherry, who had been considered the Democratic front-runner during the exploratory phase of his candidacy, released a statement at 12 noon ET indicating that he will not formally enter the race for governor. Granholm is barred by term limits from running again.

Democratic officials are hoping that Cherry’s exit will lead some Democrats who had stayed out of the race to reconsider.

House Speaker Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero are among those who may jump in.

Already running on the Democratic side are state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, former Rep. John Freeman and Michigan State trustee George Perles.

Republican officials are bullish on their chances in next year’s governor’s race because of the high unemployment rate facing the state.

The Republican field includes Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R), businessman Rick Snyder, Attorney General Mike Cox, and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, the Republican Party’s 2006 nominee for U.S. Senate.

Cherry was first elected lieutenant governor in 2002 as Granholm’s running mate. He was re-elected in 2006.

Before serving as lieutenant governor, Cherry served in the Michigan State Legislature. Earlier in his career, he was the state political director for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

See below for Cherry’s full statement:

Today I am announcing that the exploration of a gubernatorial candidacy is coming to an end, and I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2010.

A year ago, when this exploratory process began, I set several goals that I thought I needed to attain if a candidacy was to be successful. I believed that at least a thousand Michigan citizens needed to express their support for my candidacy. That number was exceeded significantly. I also believed that in 2009 I would have to obtain at least half of the petition signatures necessary to obtain a position on the ballot. We succeeded in reaching that number as well.

However, I also believed that I had to secure enough money to make my candidacy fully viable. I was not successful in that endeavor to the degree that was needed. With that in mind, I have come to the conclusion that to wage a successful campaign will be difficult at best.

Of course, I find this a disappointing circumstance for two reasons. First, a number of good friends stepped forward to offer their support, and they worked very hard to build a very impressive grassroots network. I hate to disappoint them with this news. Many of them also contributed hard earned money to help support our efforts. That does not, however, diminish the effort that they and the campaign team made to build a successful candidacy.

I am also disappointed because I truly believe that 2010 will be a critical year and election for Michigan. We stand before a simple choice between a race to the bottom or a vision of Michigan as we would like it to be. There are many who for political reasons choose to demean the notion of Michigan as a state that is investing and building for the future. They would rather have us blame our present economic circumstances on the victims of the global forces that disrupted the family and economic lives of thousands of Michigan citizens.

I had hoped that my campaign could argue for a Michigan that could put its great assets to work to create a new, vibrant 21st Century economy-- our great workforce and citizenry, internationally renowned institutions of higher education, and the 20 percent of the world's supply of fresh water that surrounds us. Those are strong building blocks for the future. The only thing that stands in the way of creating a strong future out of them is the negative political cult of personality that seeks political advantage at the expense of our civil endeavors.

I am disappointed that I will not be the candidate to carry that message.

Most importantly, though, I wish to thank my family-- my wife Pam, my children, my mother, and my brother and sisters for their help, support, and love. While ending the campaign is a disappointment for us, the effort brought us new friendships, introduced us to amazing people, and opened our eyes to a Michigan that is truly inspiring. For that we are extremely grateful.

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