- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Washington Times incorrectly reported in this article how many children survived the late Sen. Craig Thomas. Mr. Thomas and is wife had four children.

Sen. Craig Thomas, serving his third term as a Republican U.S. senator from Wyoming, died last night after battling leukemia.

Mr. Thomas, 74, passed away surrounded by his family at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. He had been receiving chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia.

“The family wants to thank everyone for their prayers during this time,” the Thomases said in a statement last night.

State law will allow Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal to appoint a successor from among three finalists chosen by the state Republican party. It was not clear last night whether the successor would serve the rest of the six-year term or just a portion. Mr. Thomas was re-elected last fall with 70 percent of the vote.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Thomas’ office announced he had been listed in serious condition as he struggled with an infection on top of the cancer, which was resisting treatment.

“At this difficult time, all we can do is give him as much love and support as possible,” his wife, Susan, said this afternoon. “The support and prayers of Wyoming folks have made a tremendous difference to us. It has meant everything to Craig, and I know it helps him today.”

Senate aides last night did not want to discuss the political implications for such a closely divided chamber out of respect for the Thomas family. The Democratic caucus has a 51-49 edge in the chamber.

Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat, who suffered a brain hemorrhage in December, has not been on Capitol Hill since, but is expected to return soon. His fragile state of health in the winter after Democrats won control of Congress sent some politicians into a panic for fear they might lose what they had just won.

Before the election, Mr. Thomas was hospitalized with pneumonia and had to cancel his last campaign stops. He monitored the election from his hospital bed. After his winter chemotherapy, Mr. Thomas told reporters he felt much better. But his condition had taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, and Mr. Thomas announced the cancer had returned.

His gentle disposition made him one of the chamber’s most beloved members, with a reputation for kindliness among Senate staffers. In recent weeks, Senate employees said they had seen Mr. Thomas frequently squiring his wife around the Capitol, taking delight in showing her parts of the building off the typical tourists’ track, such as the Senate press gallery.

Mr. Thomas was a state legislator in Wyoming and a longtime rural advocate before being elected in 1989 to replace Dick Cheney in the House of Representatives when Mr. Cheney became defense secretary.

The four-year veteran of the Marine Corps was a low-key senator, working on rural issues and restoring the nation’s parks, including Wyoming’s Yellowstone, and earning plaudits for a consistent conservative voting record. He also worked on light-hearted measures, such as sponsoring a bill this year to designate July 28 as “National Day of the American Cowboy.”

“Wyoming had no greater advocate, taxpayers had no greater watchdog, and rural America had no greater defender than Craig Thomas,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said in a statement last night. “The Senate is a lesser place without Craig here, but the state of Wyoming and our nation are much better places because he was here.”

Besides his wife, he is survived by his sons, Patrick and Greg, and a daughter, Lexie.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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