PORTLAND (AP) – Erasing any potential doubts, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe told a Maine Public Radio call-in program that she intends to seek a third term in 2006.

“I am running for re-election,” Snowe said Monday. “It’s sort of early to announce all that, but people have asked me so I obviously want to make sure that people know that I do intend to run for re-election.”

With the GOP adding several conservatives to its Senate majority, Snowe said it is important to maintain the independent-minded voice of moderate Republicanism.

“Maybe we can help to lessen the polarization, the partisanship,” she said. “Obviously, the center is dwindling, and I think that’s regrettable… We (shouldn’t) just drive ideological wedges, but rather, how can we fashion the very best policy in the interests of the country.”

Snowe also said her growing seniority on several important committees, including the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Finance Committee, was among the factors contributing to her decision to seek re-election.

Snowe’s plans come as no surprise. Her workers passed out “Snowe 2006” T-shirts at the Republican State Convention. And she would be the likely favorite in the race.

Tony Corrado, a government professor at Colby College and a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institute, said Snowe’s decision means the state’s political line-up probably will not see a major shakeup in the next two years.

“The Senate seats tend to be the seats that create a lot of movement within the state,” Corrado said. “With the two senate seats fairly well established at this point I would expect to see the gubernatorial race become the major focus for ambitious candidates trying to move into higher office.”

Snowe, 57, served five years in the Maine Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House in 1978.

She was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994.

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