2:20 p.m. Update: Well, so much for that rumor. Sims tells us there's nothing to the speculation that he'll run for governor.
"I appreciate the speculation, but I was talking to Congressman Inslee earlier, so I said, 'Can I volunteer to be on your campaign?' He was more than ecstatic," Sims said in an interview. "I'm going home. It's been an absolute honor to serve the president. Secretary [Shaun] Donovan is an exceptional secretary."
"My family did not move out here, so my sons, my wife, my mother in law, my mother are all back in Seattle," he said. "After a while, you realize the day-to-day work and challenges and attention, you realize there's something just missing, and it's home life."
Ron Sims, the number two official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is leaving his post after about two years on the job, fueling speculation he will return home to Washington State and run for governor.
Sims, the former King County executive, told his staff in a letter obtained by the Seattle Times he will leave at the end of July to return to Seattle to be with his family.
"As rewarding as my two years at HUD have been professionally, they have been equally challenging to my family. Living more than 2,000 miles from those I love most is a burden I no longer wish to endure. While there is joy and relief in my decision to go home, it is with a heavy heart I say goodbye to all of you," Sims wrote to his employees.
The letter to employees gave no hints at his future plans, but the timing of his announcement raised eyebrows in Washington State, where Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire said Monday she would not seek a third term. Gregoire won her first term in 2004, after beating Sims in the Democratic primary by a wide margin.
Sims was not immediately available for comment.
If Sims does return to Washington to run for governor, he would likely face Rep. Jay Inslee in the Democratic primary. Inslee, who lost a gubernatorial primary in 1996, has been making public moves toward another bid for years.
The winner of the Democratic primary would likely face state Attorney General Rob McKenna, a relatively moderate Republican who gives the GOP their best shot at winning the governor's race in years. No Republican has won the governor's mansion in Washington State since 1980, the longest uninterrupted streak of Democratic dominance in the nation.