Gov. Ballard? No thanks!

OLYMPIA — Retired House Speaker Clyde Ballard, for years the Republicans’ top-ranking legislator, on Tuesday announced he won’t be a candidate for governor.

The East Wenatchee conservative, who has been Democratic Gov. Gary Locke’s toughest critic, said he seriously considered the race, but decided it would be too difficult to raise the $5 million necessary for a strong statewide campaign.

“There was just no way to get there,” Ballard said in an interview. “We could see perhaps $1.5 million, but there was no way to be competitive, especially with three in the race (for the GOP nomination).

“It would have been an extreme long shot and then to come in with a less than winning percentage wasn’t something I was interested in.”

Ballard said he will back state Senate budget Chairman Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish, who formally announced his candidacy for governor on Monday in Issaquah.

Ballard said he has urged Rossi to be “deadly honest with people” and fearless in how he runs the office, if he wins. “He should run as if it’s just for one term,” Ballard said.

Federico Cruz, director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, also is running.

Ballard, 67, has joined the national board of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a conservative lobbying group, and expects to campaign for the re-election of President Bush.