Randy Horiuchi has made it official: He is not running for a third term as Utah Democratic Party chairman. In a statement released Monday afternoon, Horiuchi endorsed Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, for the volunteer post.

Many political observers expected Horiuchi to step aside because of criticism he received from party leaders when he attempted to align Democrats with supporters of last year's failed tax initiatives.After being publicly chastised, Horiuchi gave up trying to form an alliance with Merrill Cook, who ran unsuccessfully for governor as an independent and may have cost Democrat Ted Wilson the 1988 election.

But it was too late. Former Gov. Scott Matheson, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and other Democrats had already thrown their support behind Salt Lake attorney Peter Billings Jr. for the chairmanship, which will be decided at the party's state convention next month.

Atkinson, the head of the 4,500-member Utah School Employees Association, and Marvin Davis, a businessman who was a Jesse Jackson delegate to the national party convention last year, are other announced candidates.

Horiuchi, a lobbyist by profession, said that during his four years as chairman, the number of Democratic legislators has doubled and Democrats have won state and congressional offices.

"But best of all, win or lose, we've given the voters of Utah a choice and given Democrats something to cheer for," he said. "We've become competitive and are within striking distance of gaining majorities."

Horiuchi said Atkinson is his choice because, "he's always positive, always searching for solutions instead of criticizing . . . like me, he puts people first, and that's what our party is about."