LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Rep. Jim Gibbons has decided not to challenge Democratic Sen. Harry Reid next year in what was expected to be one of the most hotly contested races for the U.S. Senate.
Gibbons, R-Nev., said Monday that his desire to work on House committees against terrorism prompted him not to seek the GOP nomination.
"There is no doubt in my mind that I could defeat the existing senator on Election Day, but my decision has nothing to do with Sen. Harry Reid," Gibbons said at a morning new conference at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
"But I do know that to devote 14 months to a partisan political campaign given the immense responsibilities I have today and the significant challenges we face simply is not in the best interest of Nevadans, this state or this nation."
Gibbons, 58, who has wide support throughout Nevada, was considered the best choice by Republicans to challenge Reid in 2004. Gibbons, noting Reid has raised more than $3 million, said he had no doubt that he could have raised enough money to mount a successful campaign.
The four-term congressman was flanked at the podium by his wife, Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, and Lia Roberts, state Republican Party chairwoman.
He repeated the 15-minute speech to a handful of supporters Monday afternoon at the Reno airport. Gibbons said he scheduled two news conferences because he felt he had the responsibility to answer reporters' questions in both of Nevada's major population centers.
White House officials and other nationally prominent Republican had encouraged Gibbons to challenge Reid, who was last re-elected in 1998 by only 428 votes. Reid, 64, is the second-leading Democrat in the Senate and has been repeatedly at odds with President Bush.
Gibbons said Monday that the White House did not put heavy pressure on him.
"I did not speak to the president about this issue," he said. "Actually, the White House has been minimally involved in this decision."
Reid called Gibbons a "strong and important member of Nevada's Congressional delegation" and said he looked forward to working together on issues important to Nevada.
"Congressman Gibbons' seniority in the House of Representatives is an asset to our state, making the true beneficiary of his decision today the people of Nevada," Reid said.
Reid and his wife, Landra, are longtime friend of Gibbons and his wife.
Gibbons said that since making his decision a week ago, he had spoken to prominent Nevadans about running against Reid next year, but named only Las Vegas businessman Jack Woodcock as being one of those who had expressed interest.
A decorated former combat pilot and the only member of Congress to serve in Vietnam and Iraq, Gibbons is a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is considered a possible successor to retiring Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., as chairman of the committee.
Gibbons also sits on three other committees: the House Resources Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Homeland Security.
Gibbons, who represents Nevada's 2nd District, was re-elected easily to his fourth term last year. Gibbons received 74 percent of the vote, easily outpacing his nearest challenger, Reno computer technician Travis Souza, who received 20 percent.
Gibbons was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1996. Before entering national politics, Gibbons was elected in 1988 to the Nevada State Assembly, where he served three terms.
Although Gibbons said he hasn't ruled out someday running for Senate, he would only say that he intends to run for re-election in 2004.
"This is an important and critical time," he said. "Not the time to be a freshman senator."
"I have a bright future," he said.
Gibbons has said that he has been encouraged to run for governor in 2006 when Kenny Guinn must step down because of term limits.
"All doors are open," he told the Reno gathering. "We have not closed the door on any political office.
"I would like to be a member of the U.S. Senate and possibly someday, I will be."