WASHINGTON – Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas, a three-term conservative Republican who stayed clear of the Washington limelight and political catfights, died Monday. He was 74. The senator’s family issued a statement saying he died Monday evening at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. 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 percent of the vote, monitoring the election from his hospital bed. Two days after the election, Thomas announced that he had just 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 said Monday 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.” 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 was also 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. Thomas entered Congress in a special election in 1989 to replace Dick Cheney when the future vice president was named defense secretary by the President George H.W. Bush. Thomas won that race with 52 percent of the vote. In 1994, Thomas won his first Senate race by beating former Gov. Mike Sullivan 59 percent to 39 percent. He is survived by his wife, Susan, and four children.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!