State Sen. Al Melvin pulled the plug Monday on his gubernatorial aspirations, concluding time had run out to get the funding he needed.

The Tucson Republican had said last week he would make a decision about his campaign by Friday. That was the day he had been told was the last one to remove his name from the ballot.

But it turns out the smaller counties actually need more time to prepare their ballots for the Aug. 26 primary. And Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake said the go-or-no-go decision had to be made immediately.

Melvin chose the latter.

The three-term senator had hoped to finance his primary race with $753,616 in public funding. But to get there, he had to come up with 4,500 donations of $5 apiece. A 1998 voter-approved law allows candidates to get public funding if they can prove a minimum number of supporters.

Melvin did not say how close he was, only that time had run out.

The most immediate question is which of the remaining GOP contenders Melvin will back. Whatever backing he has, however small, could prove crucial: In a six way race, it could take as little as getting 17 percent of the votes cast to pick up the nomination.

“I haven’t decided yet,” he said, saying he made the decision to drop out Sunday night. “And so I have to give it some time to think it over.”

Melvin said he wants to see which of the candidates has views closest to his. But he acknowledged that litmus test means one already is out of the running for his endorsement: former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.

But the 69-year-old senator said his decision does not mean he is getting out of politics and public policy. Melvin said he has issues he wants to push, including giving every student in Arizona an $8,000 voucher to attend any school he or she wants.

The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld a voucher-like program that makes state aid to attend private and parochial schools available to some students with special needs or who were attending schools rated D or F. But Melvin said the kind of broad move he envisions likely would require convincing voters to repeal a provision in the Arizona Constitution that bans state aid for private and parochial schools.

Melvin has also been a strong proponent of the increased use of nuclear energy, saying it could prove especially crucial if Arizona is to meet its future water needs with a desalinization plant.