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Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., who promised in her first and second campaigns that she would serve only two terms, announced Thursday she changed her mind and would seek a third term in 1990.

Her decision dashed hopes of Democrats that she would retire and thus give them a much-improved chance of ending a 50-year drought in which no Democrat has represented Kansas in the Senate.When she first ran in 1978, she pledged to serve only 12 years - two six-year terms - if she won a Senate seat. She was elected that year. When seeking re-election in 1984, she repeated that vow and retained the seat.

She said she changed her mind and decided she could best serve Kansas by using her seniority but added that it troubled her to break the pledge. "It did bother me because I believe a number of Kansans valued the fact that when I say something, that's what I mean," Kassebaum said.

However, she argued that it would hurt Kansas if she limited her tenure when others in Congress are not subject to similiar restrictions. There is no limit on the number of terms a person can serve in the Senate or the House.

"If you're the only one . . . you simply give up some of the credentials and the seniority that you have built here that you hope can be useful to your state," Kassebaum said.