Michigan Gov. James J. Blanchard (D) has dropped Lt. Gov. Martha Griffiths, who served in Congress 20 years and was a force behind passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, from the 1990 gubernatorial ticket.

Blanchard praised Griffiths as "the premier stateswoman" and "a wonderful friend" but said he asked her to step aside because he no longer considers her ready to assume the governor's post at a moment's notice. "I've always tried to do what's right for the people of Michigan," Blanchard told a news conference Friday.

He said a search was on for a new running mate for the fall campaign against John Engler, the Republican state Senate majority leader.

Griffiths, 78, ran with Blanchard in his campaigns of 1982, when she became Michigan's first elected lieutenant governor, and 1986. Amid speculation she would not run again, Griffiths announced on May 10 that she was ready for a third term. As recently as Aug. 7, Blanchard told reporters, "It's been a great team, a successful team. I'd hate to break it up."

Blanchard, whose reelection got off to a rockier than expected start, refused to speculate on the political fallout of his decision, but Engler spokesman John Truscott said, "Democrats would probably have a stronger ticket if Martha Griffiths booted Jim Blanchard off instead of the other way around."