03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bill Ritter Retires: Colorado Governor Won't Seek Reelection (BREAKING NEWS, VIDEO)

Update: The Denver Post reports that Governor Ritter briefed his cabinet Wednesday morning in preparation for his 11:00 AM announcement about his future. The Post cited economic development director Don Marostica as saying the decision was related to "family concerns."

Political Wire reports that Colorado Governor Bill Ritter will not seek reelection in 2010. In a surprise move, the first-term Democrat canceled a Tuesday night fundraiser and sent his staff home early. He is expected to make an official announcement Wednesday at 11:00 AM MST.

The former prosecutor who was elected in 2006 faced daunting reelection prospects after serving as a symbol of Democratic progress in the West at the 2008 Democratic Convention. A December Rasmussen poll had him losing to likely Republican nominee Scott McInnis 48-40. The poll showed a 47% approval rating for Ritter. 9 News in Denver cites anonymous sources in confirming that the Ritter campaign's internal polling had Ritter losing to McInnis by 7 to 9 points.

While the reasons for Ritter's withdrawal are unclear, one unnamed Democratic lawmaker speculated to KDVR in Denver that "something bad must have happened" for such a significant announcement to be leaked before major party figures were made aware.

As the Denver Post points out, Ritter has expressed concern that the job was taking time away from his family.

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak told KDVR in Denver that a search would begin immediately to find a replacement candidate.

Reports have indicated Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Interior Secretary and former Senator Ken Salazar, former Speaker of the Colorado House Andrew Romanoff and Representative Ed Perlmutter are the strongest possibilities to succeed Ritter as the Democratic candidate. Romanoff is currently challenging Ritter-appointed Senator Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary.

Political figures in Colorado have attempted to woo Hickenlooper to challenge Ritter as recently as June.

"Democratic sources close to Ken Salazar" told the Denver Post that the Interior Secretary is "under tremendous pressure" from Colorado Democrats to replace Ritter on the ballot.

In an interview with the AP, Scott McInnis wrote off Andrew Romanoff and John Hickenlooper because they are from the Democratic stronghold of Denver.

WATCH the 9 News Report: