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Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday shot down rumors that he may bow out to seek the governorship next year, saying he will pursue a third term in the Senate.

“There are serious opportunities for Wyoming people that will come from my increased seniority on the Finance and Energy committees,” Thomas said in a statement released by his office. “It wouldn’t be responsible NOT to increase Wyoming’s influence in the Senate. I love what I’m doing.

“Ultimately, I want to serve Wyoming in the place where I can be most effective — clearly that will be as a senior member of the U.S. Senate.”

Thomas has already begun fundraising, hosting a minimum $1,000-per-person skiing outing in Jackson Hole this month.

He began the year with just less than $400,000 in the bank.

While the 72-year-old Senator said he will make a formal re-election announcement at an “appropriate” time, he reiterated that he has no plans to retire.

Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Jim Willox said retirement rumors were “just people talking” and speculating during the usual quiet period before the election ramps up.

“Every cycle Members have to re-evaluate their options,” Willox said.

Thomas mulled running in Wyoming’s open gubernatorial race in 2002 but decided against it in late 2001, in part because he felt compelled to stay on Capitol Hill after the terrorist attacks that year.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D), who was elected in 2002, is expected to seek a second term next year.

No Democrat has come forward to challenge Thomas yet.

National Democrats may have wished that Freudenthal would take Thomas on, but that is unlikely. So is the idea that former Gov. Mike Sullivan (D) would take another run at Thomas.

Sullivan lost badly to Thomas in 1994 when he was the governor and Thomas was the state’s lone Congressman. Thomas took 74 percent of the vote to win re-election in 2000.

A few state legislators are contemplating the race but “at this point, no one is a serious candidate yet,” said Kyle DeBeer, executive director of the Wyoming Democratic Party. “People are looking at it, but no one has formed a committee yet.”

Democrats do not have much of a bench with which to work. Only seven of the state’s 30 Senators are Democrats and Republicans control the state House 46-to-14.

“I’m sure they’ll field a candidate, but in Wyoming it’s extremely difficult for a Democrat to get elected to federal or even state office,” Willox said. “Their ideas don’t resonate well in Wyoming.”

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