House Majority Leader Chris Fox-Finlinson, the most powerful woman in the Legislature, announced Tuesday afternoon she won't run for re-election this year.

In early January, Fox-Finlinson, R-Lehi, married former state senator Fred Finlinson. At the time, the Deseret News asked Fox-Finlinson if there was any truth to the rumor that the couple were building a new house in Murray (Finlinson's home area) and that she would leave the Legislature.Fox-Finlinson said no decisions had been made and that she would serve through the 1998 Legislature. But in an emotional speech to the House GOP caucus, Fox-Finlinson said she and Fred were planning to build a new home in Murray and she would leave her newly constructed home in Lehi to take up residency when the new house is finished. Under Utah law, a legislator must live in the district he or she represents or resign. Fox-Finlinson said she would serve out her term this year, just not run again.

Fox-Finlinson was on track to become the first female speaker of the Utah House. However, she said she would not challenge Speaker Mel Brown for the top post. Brown is in his second speakership term and has declined to say whether he will seek a third, two-year term after the 1998 elections.

Fox-Finlinson was appointed to the House in 1987 after her husband, Merrill, who was a freshman representative from Lehi, was killed in a farm accident. She has won her own terms since.

Fox-Finlinson was seen as role model for a number of female politicians in the 1990s. After Merrill's death she finished a college degree and put herself through Brigham Young University's Law School, all while raising her children as a single parent.

Last summer she passed the bar and became an attorney in the same law firm as Finlinson. After Finlinson was widowed in 1997, the two began dating and decided late last year to get married.