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Lt. Gov. Mike Huckabee says he decided to drop his bid for the U.S. Senate and complete the term of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker because his responsibilities to the state are more important.

"This is no time for the captain to jump ship for another boat," the 40-year-old Republican said Thursday."My responsibility is to lead this state as its governor and to devote my full energy and attention to discharging the awesome responsibilities of this great position of public trust," he said.

Huckabee, a one-time Baptist minister who grew up in Hope, President Clinton's birthplace, captured the lieutenant governor's office in a special election in 1993, becoming the only Republican elected statewide in Arkansas.

He was the front-runner in the race to replace Democratic Sen. David Pryor, who is retiring.

The Democratic nominee will be the winner of a June 11 runoff between Attorney General Winston Bryant and state Sen. Lu Hardin.

The GOP is looking at the state's two Republican congressmen, Tim Hutchinson and Jay Dickey, as possible replacements for Huckabee in the Senate race.