LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Lt. Gov. John Cherry, considered the Democratic front-runner to succeed Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said Tuesday he has decided not to enter the race.

Cherry told The Associated Press that he couldn’t raise the money needed to mount a successful campaign.

“It’s the economy,” he said in an interview. “People are not in a position to give financially for campaigns as they have in the past.”

Cherry said he had met his goals of getting the support of at least 1,000 people who would endorse him and collecting at least half the petition signatures he needed to get on the ballot. But fundraising wasn’t going the way he wanted. He said he’s still looking at final numbers on how much came in but knew it wasn’t enough.

“You would have to spend significant dollars on TV to have a successful campaign,” he said. “It just wasn’t there.”

There had been recent signs of trouble, with Cherry shaking up his campaign staff. But Cherry said his campaign was on track except for the money.

His withdrawal likely will cause Democrats who had stayed out of the race to reconsider. With just eight months until the August primary, any new candidates may have to be able to finance most of their own campaign. That could point toward someone such as businesswoman and University of Michigan Regent Denise Ilitch.

Cherry’s withdrawal also could open the way for House Speaker Andy Dillon or Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero to enter the race. Both have said they’re considering a run. Request for comment were left Tuesday with their staffs.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano also has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Already running are Democratic state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, former Rep. John Freeman and Michigan State trustee George Perles.

Cherry, 58, has served under Granholm for two terms. As lieutenant governor, he led a higher education commission and oversaw most of the administration’s water protection efforts and has been working to consolidate state government. Granholm praised him for his efforts to keep negotiations moving when lawmakers got bogged down in 2007 and again last year while reaching a budget compromise.

But the solid-but-unassuming Cherry was seen even by some members of his own party as unlikely to win in November, given voters’ sour mood with the current administration.

He said he hasn’t ruled out another run for governor in the future, but plans to spend his last year as lieutenant governor focused on promoting Michigan’s abundant water resources as a draw for businesses and tourists.

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