Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate next year.

Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, had been considering seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. He has chosen instead to run for reelection to his Northwest Georgia House seat and, if successful, bid for another two-year term as speaker.

“Speaker Ralston is focused on continuing to move the House’s agenda forward, particularly on critical policy issues like public safety, mental health and economic development,” Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen wrote Thursday in an email to Capitol Beat News Service.

While U.S. senator is a prestigious statewide post, being among 100 senators lacks the political clout Ralston now enjoys as leader of the state House of Representatives.

Political observers considered it unlikely that he would give that up to vie for the Senate.

Ralston’s decision not to enter the Senate fray leaves the race for the Republican nod wide open, at least for now.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black is the best known candidate in the field at this point. Other announced GOP candidates include Atlanta banking executive and former Navy SEAL officer Latham Saddler and Kelvin King, a small business owner and Air Force veteran also from Atlanta.

Former President Donald Trump has openly touted University of Georgia football icon Herschel Walker, who spoke at the Republican National Convention last summer. But Walker has not yet announced whether he will run.

As an incumbent, Warnock not surprisingly has jumped out to an early fundraising lead. He raised nearly $7 million during the second quarter, giving him a total campaign treasury of $10.5 million as of June 30, including the results of earlier fund-raising.

Warnock won the Senate seat in a January runoff over incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

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