updated 3/9/2004 4:05:37 PM ET 2004-03-09T21:05:37

Gov. Bill Owens announced Tuesday he has decided against running for the Senate seat being given up by fellow Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

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Owens said his family is more important than national office, and instead of running he will finish out his second term as governor, which ends in 2006. He said the decision came down to more than “strategy and polls.”

“It comes down to what you know in your heart is the right thing to do,” he said at a news conference. “This time is not right for me, my family or for Colorado to make the kind of personal and professional commitment I know I must make to ensure victory.”

Owens, 53, and his wife, Frances, are separated. They have three children.

Campbell, 70, announced abruptly last week that he would not seek re-election, citing declining health. He was treated for prostate cancer last year. His Washington office also faces allegations that a longtime aide had taken kickbacks.

Campbell’s seat had been considered safe for the GOP, which holds a 51-48 margin in the Senate. His decision gave Democrats another open Senate seat to target in November and threw the Colorado Senate race wide open.

GOP officials had urged Owens to run for the seat, saying recent polls showed him the best candidate against five relatively unknown Democrats now in the race.

The GOP lacks a high-profile candidate, though Reps. Bob Beauprez, Tom Tancredo and Scott McInnis have all said they are interested in the job.

Two prominent Democrats, including Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar and Rep. Mark Udall, have said they are considering running.

Former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart has indicated he will not run.

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