ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -

The Minnesota elections chief who steered the state through contentious back-to-back recounts, including Sen. Al Franken's slim victory over Republican Norm Coleman, says he won't run for a third term next year.

Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, 61, said Tuesday that he'll step down when his current term is done at the end of 2014.

"This was a difficult decision for me," Ritchie said in a statement. "But after months of thought and discussion with family, I concluded that January 2015 will be the right time for me to step aside — making way for the next generation of talented leadership in the Office of the Secretary of State."

Ritchie was first elected in November 2006 with a four-year term beginning in January 2007. He was re-elected to a second term in 2010.

The open seat is sure to mean a competitive contest as Republicans try to break up Democratic dominance of statewide elected positions. Gov. Mark Dayton and Franken are both on the 2014 ballot after winning their respective offices in races that went to recounts.