Salazar, KenJust hours after Bill Ritter announced that he would not seek a second term as Colorado’s governor, all eyes shifted to Ken Salazar, the former U.S. senator who last year was appointed by President Barack Obama as secretary of the Interior Department.

The Atlantic’s Mark Ambinder, for instance, identifies Salazar as a favorite to step in for Ritter, the moderate Democrat who says he will not run this year in order to focus more on his family life.

Though he’s not as well-known around rural parts of Colorado as Salazar, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s name has also perked noteworthy interest. Hick promises to make a quick decision about whether he’d run or not, but for the moment he’s deferring to Salazar.

“Should Ken Salazar decide to run, I’d probably be his first volunteer,” Hickenlooper says (via The Denver Post).

But Salazar, whose unlikely rise was documented by 5280 Executive Editor Maximillian Potter in August 2008, is dodging the issue. Prior to Ritter’s official announcement, reporters tried to pin down Salazar four times on the question. The San Luis Valley native remains evasive, notes The Washington Post.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” is the only thing Salazar has said.

Nevertheless, others are willing to weigh in, including Congressman John Salazar, Ken’s brother, who tells The Pueblo Chieftain, “I think my brother would be the best candidate.”

Who would take Ken’s post at the Interior? The rumor mill is proffering none other than California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Politico’s Ben Smith points out. And The Denver Post reports that Salazar would have the White House’s “OK” to abandon the post for a gubernatorial run.

Meanwhile, Ritter, who faced what would have been an uphill campaign, calls his decision “intensely personal,” saying he hopes to find the “proper balance” with his family while focusing on the business of Colorado during tough economic times. Read the governor’s full remarks or listen to the audio clip (via his press office).