By Jason McLure
LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Popular New Hampshire Democratic governor John Lynch will not seek a fifth term in office, saying the time had come for a new generation of leaders who could bring "new ideas" to the state.
"I feel I have the passion and energy to keep doing this work for a long, long time," Lynch said on Thursday.
"But democracy demands periodic change. To refresh and revive itself, democracy needs new leaders and new ideas. Institutions must be challenged in new ways to stay vibrant and relevant."
Lynch, 58, is the longest serving governor of the state in more than 200 years, and had an approval rating of 65 percent, according to a University of New Hampshire poll published in July.
He won re-election in 2010 with 53 percent of the vote even as Republicans won all three U.S. congressional seats in play and more than two-thirds of the seats in the state legislature. That sweep gave Republicans veto-proof majorities in both the state Senate and House.
During his tenure Lynch signed a law legalizing same-sex marriage in the state and led New Hampshire into a regional grouping that seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
He also signed legislation making kindergarten universally available in the state and oversaw a decline in high school dropout rates.
Lynch opposed efforts within his own party to enact a broad-based sales or income tax to help fund education and other state services.
More recently, Lynch has overseen efforts to clean up parts of the start damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.
New Hampshire's unemployment rate in July was 5.2 percent, far below the 9.1-percent national level. The state had the highest median income of any state in the country between 2008 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Lynch, a former executive at a furniture company and director of admissions at Harvard Business School, vowed to serve out his term, which ends in January 2013.
"The journey is not over, there is still much to do," he said. "As long as I am governor I will continue to work hard to make a difference."
Under its constitution, New Hampshire's governor is weaker than those of many states.
In addition to contending with Republican supermajorities in both houses of the legislature, executive appointments and state contracts authorized by the governor are subject to review by a five-member executive council. Currently all five members of the council are Republican.
(Reporting by Jason McLure, Editing by Ros Krasny)