updated 11/22/2004 5:37:24 PM ET 2004-11-22T22:37:24

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said Monday that he will not seek the chairmanship of the Democratic Party.

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Citing his responsibilities as governor, Vilsack said “these challenges and opportunities require more time than I felt I could share. As a result I will not be a candidate for DNC chairman.”

Earlier this month, Vilsack, an ally of failed presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, telephoned several Democratic National Committee members, seeking advice and asking them to temporarily withhold endorsement of any candidate.

The 400-plus DNC membership meets in February to select a replacement for Terry McAuliffe, who is not seeking another term.

Vilsack has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2008. A possible factor in his decision to forgo the DNC race was the likelihood that the party chairmanship would preclude any run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Because I will be the senior Democratic governor in the country, I will continue to be an active voice in our party and a zealous and committed advocate for a Democratic agenda of opportunity, responsibility and security,” Vilsack said in a statement.

Alexis Herman, who served as Labor secretary in the Clinton administration, also said Monday that she will not seek the chairmanship. Some Democrats had urged her to pursue the post.

Big challenges ahead
The challenge for the next Democratic chairman is daunting after two straight presidential losses and defeats in the House and Senate that have tightened the Republican grip on Congress.

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean has called party regulars, expressing his interest in the DNC job. Other Democrats interested in the job or being asked to pursue it include Harold Ickes, adviser to former President Clinton; Leo Hindery, former chairman of the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network LLC, a New York-based sports cable channel that televises New York Yankees’ baseball games; former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., said Monday that the Democratic Party is fortunate that Hindery wants the job, describing the former chairman and CEO of AT&T Broadband as a successful New York City businessman who understands the Republican-leaning regions of the country.

“He can be a unifier and be a neutral broker,” Kerrey said in a telephone interview.

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