Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R) said Monday that he will not run for governor of Louisiana next year, ending a stretch of public agonizing over the decision.

Kennedy, known as one of the most quotable members of the Senate, would have started the race as the leading Republican challenging incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South.

“I love being in the United States Senate,” Kennedy, who had been eyeing the gubernatorial race for about a year, said in a statement in which he also heavily criticized the state of affairs in Louisiana.

“I hope someone runs for Governor who understands that Louisiana state government does not have to be a big, slow, dumb, wasteful, sometimes corrupt, spend-money-like-it-was-ditchwater, anti-taxpayer, top down institution,” Kennedy said. “I love Louisiana as much as I love my country, and the people of my state deserve a state government as good as they are.”

Before joining the Senate nearly two years ago, Kennedy held various positions in state government, including as Louisiana’s treasurer for 17 years.

Edwards fired back at Kennedy in a statement released shortly after Kennedy announced his decision not to run for governor.

“For Sen. Kennedy, this was never about the people of Louisiana,” Edwards wrote. “This was about focusing the spotlight on himself. Now that this is behind us, my hope is that he will make it a priority to work together with me and the entire congressional delegation to get things done for the hard working families of this state.”

Kennedy had acknowledged being conflicted about continuing to serve in the Senate or to return to state government.

“I’m very torn,” he said in an interview with Fox News last week. “I don’t know what I am going to do. It’s such an honor to represent Louisiana in the United States Senate, but my state is in trouble, and I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Democrats seized on the indecision. In a statement last week, the Democratic coordinated campaign supporting Edwards chided Kennedy, saying he “can’t even decide when he’s going to decide which political office he wants.”

Republican Eddie Rispone, a businessman who has not held elective office, has announced a gubernatorial bid in Louisiana, which holds a nonpartisan “jungle primary.” Rep. Ralph Abraham (R) is also eyeing the race.

Edwards was elected governor in 2015 after serving in the state legislature.

In a statement Monday, the Democratic Governors Association asserted that Kennedy’s decision to take a pass on the race was a reflection of Edwards’s strong standing in the state.

“Senator Kennedy did the same thing that every other top Republican recruit did: He paid for a poll and then realized he could not beat Gov. Edwards,” DGA spokesman Jared Leopold said.