Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe (search) said Thursday he plans to step down as head of the national party when his term concludes early next year.

McAuliffe said he has always planned to serve only one term and looks forward to spending more time with his family.

"I said from day one I will not do it," McAuliffe said Thursday in a phone interview from Arkansas. "I've done this for four years, I've got five little kids at home."

McAuliffe, 47, a wealthy businessman and veteran fund raiser, is a close ally of former President Clinton who has been active in national Democratic politics for 25 years.

As Democratic chairman, he has pushed several initiatives to modernize the Democratic National Committee (search). Those include updating the party's voter files, increasing its direct-mail lists, modernizing its computer system, making the transition to new restrictive fund-raising laws, and redesigning the national headquarters just south of the Capitol.

The eventual Democratic nominee could push for a new chairman, but McAuliffe said that was very unlikely because of the many new fund-raising and voter-turnout projects he's responsible for that are critical to the election.

"All the candidates are very excited about what we have done with the committee and want to have me in there raising more than $100 million," McAuliffe said. Officials with the campaign of Democratic front-runner John Kerry  could not be reached for comment.

After Democrats suffered losses in the 2002 elections, McAuliffe was not challenged for the job. Several state chairmen said at the time they were happy with McAuliffe's enthusiastic leadership, skill at raising money and efforts to modernize the party.

McAuliffe won't rule out other political activities, saying there could be lots of opportunities "when we win the White House."

McAuliffe, a native of upstate New York, first discussed his plans with the Syracuse, N.Y., Post-Standard.