CRANSTON, R.I. – Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Wednesday he is not running for a second term, bowing out of what was expected to be a fierce primary in his new Democratic Party.
The governor, who became a Democrat in May, has struggled with poor approval ratings and is a reluctant fundraiser. He said he would not run next year because he wants to govern.
"I want to devote all my time, all my energy, to the task at hand," he said.
Chafee is a former Republican U.S. senator who lost his seat in 2006. He became an independent in 2007, and won a four-way race for governor in 2010.
His switch to the Democratic Party set up what would have been a divisive primary against expected candidates Gina Raimondo, the state treasurer, and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. Representatives for Raimondo and Taveras had no immediate comment.
In making his announcement, Chafee did not rule out seeking political office again and said he came to the decision after discussing it for months with his family. He said that opting not to run was separate from his decision to switch parties and that he felt good about it.
Chafee said when he became a Democrat that "joining a team" would allow him to collaborate with the Democratic governors in neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts.
A longtime political ally of President Barack Obama, he also said it would help him raise money for his bid for a second term.
Chafee does not like to fundraise and had just $377,000 in his campaign account as of June 30, according to a filing with the Rhode Island Board of Elections. He has poured millions of dollars of his own wealth into his past campaigns.
Raimondo had more than $2 million in her campaign account, and Taveras had just under $700,000, according to filings.
Chafee made the announcement at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles in Cranston. Soon after taking office, he vowed to fix the agency, which was plagued by long waits and other inefficiencies. Chafee is credited with making big improvements.