(CNN) - Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland made it official Tuesday morning: He's not going to make a bid next year to try and reclaim his old job.
"I am announcing my decision not to seek election as Governor of Ohio in 2014. In many ways, this has been a very difficult decision," said Strickland in a statement.
The former Democratic congressman and minister won election as Ohio governor in 2006 but lost a close re-election bid to Republican John Kasich, a former congressman and state senator, in 2010.
Strickland hinted last summer that he might be interested in taking on Kasich in a 2014 rematch.
This past weekend, sources told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger that the former Ohio governor is being considered for a cabinet position, possibly transportation, in President Barack Obama's administration.
Strickland endorsed then Sen. Hillary Clinton in the 2008 battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, helping her carry the state in the primaries. But when she bowed out, he became a strong supporter of then Sen. Barack Obama, who carried the crucial battleground state in the general election. In 2012 Strickland was again a tireless supporter for Obama, who once again carried Ohio in the presidential contest.
Democratic Governors Association chairman Peter Shumlin, Vermont's governor, said that "Strickland has been a great public servant for the people of Ohio- as a congressman, a governor, and a strong voice for working and middle class families across the state."
With Strickland not running, a Democratic strategist close to Ohio politics says that Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald may be the likeliest Democratic challenger to Kasich next year.
"I'm taking it very seriously," Fitzgerald told the Columbus Dispatch Tuesday. "I've been meeting with people all across the state and that will be accelerated a little bit now. I've talked with some people about getting a team together to run my campaign for governor, but I have a lot of things to consider and it's still too early to say anything more."
The strategist, who requested anonymity to more freely discuss the lay of the land in Ohio, added that talk of Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan running for the gubernatorial nomination has diminished. Other names that have been mentioned are former Rep. Betty Sutton and Richard Cordray, director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
National Democrats are eyeing Ohio next year, with Shumlin saying that "while (Strickland) may not be our candidate for governor, Ohio is one of our top pick-up opportunities and we will continue to work with Governor Strickland to return the seat to Democrats."
"Gov. Strickland was by far Democrats' best potential candidate, but Kasich isn't going to get a free ride. I can't imagine Ohio not being one of the most competitive gubernatorial races in the country next year," says Nathan Gonzales, political editor at the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report.
Polls indicate that Kasich's popularity has increased since 2011, when a bruising fight over collective bargaining rights for public workers hurt his standing with Ohio voters. The most recent survey from Quinnipiac University indicated that a plurality of registered voters approved of the job he was doing as governor, but that a plurality also said they didn't support his re-election in 2014.
New Jersey and Virginia, both currently controlled by the GOP, will hold gubernatorial contests this November, and 37 states will be up for grabs next year.