Sen. Trent Lott announced Tuesday he is running for a fourth term this year, a decision that ends months of speculation.

The 64-year-old Republican told a hometown crowd Tuesday that he wants to continue working on federal issues related to Mississippi's recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

The former Senate majority leader also has hinted that he might seek another leadership position in Washington.

Lott was first elected to the U.S. House in 1972 and to the Senate in 1988.

Lott said he talked with family and friends and decided to run.

"I've chosen Mississippi and America once again. I am going to ask the people of Mississippi to re-elect me," Lott said.

Lott lost his own beach-side house to Katrina on Aug. 29.

"There's always a question of how long is enough," Lott said when asked about his plans earlier this month. "I've been at it for 37 years as a staff member, as a congressman and as a senator. Thirty-seven years is a pretty good period of time. But you know, I've enjoyed every minute of it. So I guess one thing I could say is, why end something that you're having so much fun at?"

Lott's announcement came six weeks before candidates' March 1 qualifying deadline.

Lott is unbeatable if he runs, said political scientist Marty Wiseman, director of Mississippi State University's John C. Stennis Institute of Government.

Party primaries are June 6. The general election is Nov. 7.

Lott was Senate majority leader from 1996 until June 2001, when Vermont Sen. James Jeffords left the Republican Party to become an independent, tipping control of the Senate to the Democrats. Lott's title switched to minority leader, and after the GOP fared well in the 2002 elections he was slated to become majority leader again.

Lott lost his leadership position in December 2002 after saying at Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party that Mississippi had proudly voted for Thurmond when the South Carolinian ran for president as a segregationist in 1948.

Lott said last month that he might seek another Senate leadership job if he wins another term. He has a news conference scheduled Wednesday in Washington to discuss that issue.

The current majority leader, Tennessee Republican Bill Frist, already has announced that he's not seeking re-election this year, opening an inside race among Republicans for the Senate's top jobs, including party whip. Lott was first elected to the U.S. House in 1972 and served as House Republican whip for eight years before being elected to the Senate in November 1988.

Lott, who holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Mississippi, started his Washington career in 1968 as administrative assistant to U.S. Rep. William Colmer, D-Miss. Lott won the south Mississippi congressional seat when Colmer retired.