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Craig Thomas, 74; 3-term GOP senator from Wyoming

June 05, 2007|From the Associated Press

Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas, a three-term conservative Republican who stayed clear of the Washington limelight and political disputes, died Monday. He was 74.

The senator's family issued a statement saying that he died at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he had been receiving chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia.

Just before the 2006 election, Thomas was hospitalized with pneumonia and had to cancel his last campaign stops. He nonetheless won with 70% of the vote, monitoring the election from his hospital bed.

Two days after the election, Thomas announced that he had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, will appoint a successor from one of three finalists chosen by the state Republican Party.

"Wyoming had no greater advocate, taxpayers had no greater watchdog, and rural America had no greater defender than Craig Thomas," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Monday night.

Thomas was a low-key lawmaker who reliably represented the interests of his conservative state, often becoming involved in public lands issues. He worked in behind-the-scenes posts to oversee national parks, including Yellowstone in Wyoming.

He also was an advocate for domestic energy and minerals production. He worked to protect Wyoming's mining industry from foreign competition and backed efforts to get a federally funded coal gasification plant built in the state.

After his first round of chemotherapy, Thomas returned to the Senate in December, a month earlier than expected. A few months later, he said he felt better than he had in a long time. But he returned to the hospital for a second round of chemotherapy in May.

Thomas entered Congress in a special election in 1989 to replace Dick Cheney when the future vice president was named secretary of Defense by President George H.W. Bush. Thomas won that race with 52% of the vote.

In 1994, Thomas won his first Senate race by beating former Gov. Mike Sullivan, 59% to 39%. Thomas was reelected by a wide margin in 2000, winning 74% of the vote.

Thomas had previously served five years in the Wyoming Legislature.

He was born in Cody, Wyo., and raised on a ranch. He graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in agriculture, then served four years in the Marine Corps.

He is survived by his wife, Susan; and four children.

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