HELENA - Former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., on Monday ruled out running for governor in 2012.
Over the weekend, some blogs had suggested that Williams, a former nine-term congressman, was considering a run for governor in 2012. Term limits will Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer from seeking a third term then, so it will be an open seat.
"My phone's been ringing again, really for a year, but especially since the story on the Internet," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm honored that this is the third time that Montanans have generously asked me to run for governor. If I ran, I'm convinced that I'd win the primary by a good margin and then the general by a smaller but safe margin.
"I'm 72 years old, and I am more knowledgeable and wiser than I was at my so-called prime at 35. The other thing I know is that there will be a lot of good candidate on both sides, Republican and Democratic, but I will not be one of them."
Many Democrats also had urged Williams to run for governor in 1988 and 1992, but he ultimately declined and sought re-election to the House.
Williams said he plans to teach for one more year at the University of Montana, continue to write occasional newspaper columns and do public radio commentaries and accept speaking engagements around Montana and elsewhere.
A former Butte teacher and legislator, Williams was elected to the U.S. House in 1978 from the Western District. At that time, Montana had both Western and Eastern congressional districts.
The state lost one of its two congressional seats after the 1990 census, setting up an epic 1992 statewide battle between Williams, a liberal who represented Western Montana, and nine-term Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Marlenee, a conservative who represented Eastern Montana. Williams won the 1992 race and was re-elected in 1994.
Williams did not seek re-election in 1996, saying he wanted to retire from Congress and move back to Montana.
Williams and his wife, Carol, moved to Missoula. Williams became a senior fellow at the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at UM. Carol Williams has served in the Montana House and Senate and is now Senate minority leader after being Senate majority leader in 2007.