Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) is contemplating a return to the Hoosier state to run, once again, for governor.

Bayh, a two-term Indiana governor before coming to Congress, said last week that, while it is "unlikely" he will join the 2004 gubernatorial race, he is entertaining suggestions that he do so. "Out of respect to my friends and supporters, I will listen to what they have to say," he said in a statement.

Bayh is widely believed to have at least vague presidential aspirations -- and he knows that precious few senators make it directly to the White House. Complicating his decision is the fear among Democrats that they would have trouble keeping his Senate seat if he steps down.

The gubernatorial picture is muddled because the presumed Democratic front-runner, Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan, recently announced that he won't run. Gov. Frank L. O'Bannon (D) is barred from seeking a third term. On the Republican side, some are urging White House budget director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. to run.

For now, Bayh's comments have essentially frozen the race -- at least for the Democrats. Several are said to be eyeing the contest, including former Democratic National Committee chairman Joe Andrew. But no one is expected to make an announcement before Bayh does.

A spokesman for the senator said he will announce his decision after the holidays.

Barnes of Georgia

To Continue Public Service

Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D), who lost his reelection bid in a stunning upset last month, intends to continue his public service by taking a job with a legal aid organization in Atlanta after he leaves office, according to knowledgeable sources.

Barnes, who had been mentioned as a potential member of a Democratic presidential ticket in 2004, was handily defeated by Republican George E. "Sonny" Perdue.

Also on the move . . . Michele Davis -- communications director of House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) from 1997 through January 2001 and more recently assistant Treasury secretary for public affairs under departing Secretary Paul H. O'Neill -- has been named vice president for regulatory policy at Fannie Mae, the home mortgage financing giant.

Richardson to Speak

For Democratic Governors

The Democratic Governors Association named New Mexico Gov.-elect Bill Richardson as its federal liaison last week. It's a newly created position that the group hopes will give it a louder voice within the national party and in Congress.

The announcement comes amid a broader push by the DGA to increase its visibility and influence -- even if those come at the expense of congressional colleagues. Last week, Democratic leaders in Congress agreed to several of the governors' initial proposals, including allowing one of them to give a televised response to the president's State of the Union address.

Richardson, a former House member, energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations, said he intends to use the new position to build on those sorts of gains. Among his priorities: Crafting the group's economic stimulus plan and trying to ensure that Congress does not saddle the states with any "unfunded mandates" when it takes up the remaining appropriations bills.

Staff writer Al Kamen contributed to this report.