What was heating up to be a good race for Utah County Republican Party leadership cooled off Wednesday when businessman and financier Howard Ruff decided to drop out of the race for party chairman.

Ruff and local attorney Wayne Watson had filed to replace outgoing Chairman Steve Shallenberger, but Ruff decided he likely wouldn't have the time needed to devote to the post, Shallenberger said.Ruff's withdrawal means only one party leadership slot will be decided by voting delegates during the GOP's organizing convention March 11 at the Mountain View High School auditorium in Orem. The convention will begin at 9 a.m.

Though voting will be limited to party delegates, "everybody is invited to the convention," during which party businesses, as well as elections, will be conducted, Shallenberger said.

Watson, a former deputy county attorney, serves as the local party's public relations and media chairman.

Joining Watson in running unopposed is county GOP Secretary Sue Arseneau, who is seeking the office of vice chairman. She will replace Susan Richards. Jay Liechty, who is seeking re-election as treasurer, also is running unopposed.

The only real race is for party secretary. County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Fernstedt, local computer firm executive Tom Mullen and freelance writer Monteen Gordon are seeking the post.

"I'm pleased with the individuals who have chosen to run," Shallenberger said. "They're well-qualified, have a lot of experience and will do the party well."

Shallenberger, who is stepping down after two terms as chairman, said he feels the party will left in competent hands.

"Serving two terms is longer than anybody has served for 50 years," he said. "I think two terms is long enough for anyone. It's healthy for the party to have someone else come in."

Shallenberger said the highlight of his service as party chairman was a recent trip to Washington for the inauguration of President Bush. The Republican National Committee in Washington awarded the trip and a $10,000 check to the local party for helping make Utah County the strongest medium-size GOP enclave in the nation.

"The highlight of the trip was the thrill of seeing the American democratic process working," he said.

While in Washington, Shallenberger met Vice President Dan Quayle, Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkoph and GOP leaders from throughout the country.