Rep. Bill Paxon, the Republican Wunderkind who was stripped of his House leadership position last summer for conspiring to oust Speaker Newt Gingrich, unexpectedly announced Wednesday that he would retire from office after this term and give up a career in politics to spend more time with his family.

"I will never run for office, not even dog board" Paxon told reporters. "For me personally, I tend to believe there are no second acts in politics. You do what you do. You move on. I'm closing this next chapter in my life."Paxon's announcement stunned colleagues in the House, coming as it did one week after he decided to challenge Rep. Dick Armey of Texas for the job of House majority leader. Gingrich had swung swiftly into action to protect Armey, sending clear signals that the existing leadership would stay untouched.

Just two years ago, Paxon, 43, of Buffalo, N.Y., and his wife, former Rep. Susan Molinari of Staten Island, seemed poised for shimmering political careers. The two met, courted and married in Congress; she delivered the keynote speech for the Republican National Convention in 1996; he sat behind her, cradling their baby daughter.

But their fortunes suddenly shifted last summer. Paxon found himself exiled from the House leadership for his role against Gingrich. Molinari left Congress, bitter over her husband's treatment, to become a television talk-show host.

The depth of her feelings became evident last week, when it was reported she called Gingrich a "blubbering megalomaniac" in her upcoming book. The description rankled many of the speaker's supporters.

On Wednesday, Paxon said his decision to retire boiled down to priorities and had nothing to do with his run for majority leader.