CHAMPAIGN – Jim Edgar doesn't usually tear up in public.
But the 59-year-old former governor said that Friday was a highly emotional day for him, as he said it represented his farewell to elective politics.
Edgar announced Friday in Chicago he would not challenge Democratic incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2006, at times wiping away tears with tissues.
Later in the evening, a more-composed Edgar reiterated his decision not to run for governor at a news conference in Champaign, held outside the Erwin Martinkus & Cole Ltd. law firm.
"I got very emotional," Edgar said about the Chicago announcement. "It was a very tough decision, and this is the end as far as any elective political campaign.
"I'll never have an opportunity like this again," he said, somewhat wistfully. "If I was ever going to run, this was it. ... We were in a good position to make that race. I'm sure I'll have buyer's remorse."
Edgar said he didn't make his final decision until shortly before making the announcement, while talking with his wife, Brenda.
"We had some interesting discussions," Edgar said. "A lot of people said 'Brenda won't let Jim run,' and that's not true at all. In fact, this morning she said, 'Maybe you ought to run.'"
Brenda Edgar said she thought not running "was absolutely the right decision" for her husband. She added their family was split 50-50 about whether Edgar should run.
"It was a difficult decision," she said. "I hope people understand how difficult the decision was for Jim and recognize how he needed to take the time required."
Edgar, who had heart bypass surgery in 1994, said he had gotten a clean bill of health from his doctors to make a run.
"But that's still out there," he said about his health issues, saying he recognized that the stress associated with the governor's job could cause his heart problems to recur.
A desire to maintain his comfortable current lifestyle was another factor in the decision. Edgar lives in a large house in rural Seymour, and he works at the University of Illinois, where he is a distinguished fellow with the Institute of Government & Public Affairs.
"We enjoy our lifestyle and our quality of life," he said. "We have a desire to take it a little easier."
Edgar, who was governor from 1991 to 1999, said he wasn't formally endorsing any other Republican candidate, but he made it clear he thinks Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka would be the GOP's strongest candidate. He also said he doesn't think he's hurt the chances of other Republican candidates and potential candidates, noting that there is more than two months left before candidates must file petitions to run.
"I don't think it hurt any other Republicans," he said. "These people are still out there campaigning. All this money they can supposedly get, they can get next week."
Four Republicans have announced bids for governor, including businessmen Ron Gidwitz of Chicago and James Oberweis of Aurora, and state Sens. Steve Rauschenberger of Elgin and Bill Brady of Bloomington. Several others, including Topinka, are considering bids.
Edgar said his polls show that not only he but Topinka can defeat Blagojevich.
"He's beatable," Edgar said.