Vermont Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin (D) announced that she will seek a third two-year term next year instead of running for the U.S. Senate. "Timing in politics is almost everything. As I looked at this race, I reached the conclusion that I am not ready to move on. There is more to do here in Vermont," Kunin said.

Her decision ends months of speculation about whether she would run for the seat held by Sen. Robert T. Stafford (R), who is retiring. Rep. James M. Jeffords (R-Vt.) has said he plans to run for Stafford's seat.

Kunin said she trailed Jeffords in a poll she commissioned. But she said, "I firmly believe that I would have won."

"The common wisdom in Washington is the ultimate pinnacle of political power is the Senate seat," Kunin said. "I don't buy that." But she also said "I haven't closed the door" on a possible future Senate bid.

William Gray, a Burlington lawyer and former federal prosecutor, is now considered likely to run for the Democratic Senate nomination.

Possible gubernatorial challengers to Kunin are Republican state Rep. Michael Bernhardt, the House minority leader, and Kunin's two 1986 opponents, former lieutenant governor Peter Smith (R) and Burlington Mayor Bernard Sanders, a socialist who ran as an independent.