For the past year, former state senator and multimillionaire businessman Tom Wiens has been working toward becoming the next governor of Colorado.

“I’ve been doing everything possible to organize my life so that I can run for governor in 2010,” he says. “You’ve got cattle and horses, and our ranching operations, we’ve got construction projects underway, we have employees and real business activity, and you gotta be able to lean that stuff back to the point that it would be manageable…(get) your immediate family, management team to keep all that going while you’re being a candidate.”

That’s as close as any Republican has come to saying they will jump in the race to unseat Governor Bill Ritter next year.

Wiens stops short of formally declaring himself a candidate, saying “things could change rapidly,” and adding that it’s too early for voters to want to pay attention to a 2010 gubernatorial candidate.

But he has been working behind the scenes to recruit a campaign team and win support. If he does run, his campaign would start around January of 2010.

Wiens isn’t as well-known as several other talked-about Republican candidates for governor, such as state Senate Minority leader Josh Penry, 2006 gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman, 2006 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez, and former U.S. Representative Scott McInnis, among others.

But Wiens has a long history in Colorado politics: He ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer and Congress in 1978 and 1982, respectively. He declined to run for re-election last year for the state Senate in large part because of his gubernatorial ambitions.

“I don’t think there’s anybody in the state that knows more people and has a longer political memory and institutional memory in the state of Colorado–at least people that are involved in politics–than I do,” he says.

If Wiens does run for governor, he’d likely be the richest candidate in the race: Wiens is worth millions from hotels, construction, and corporate finance. In 2007, his ranch in Sedalia was used to shoot scenes from the Eddie Murphy movie “NowhereLand.”

Wiens downplays the effect his personal wealth would have on his campaign, saying it”s “a mistake” for candidates to rely on their own fortune instead of raising money from the public.

And Wiens remembers when he was flat-broke after the Colorado oil-shale industry collapsed in the mid-1980s.

“I know how hard it is to kind of pursue that American Dream–and it’s difficult and it’s hurtful and there’s lot of pain in it,” Wiens says. “(Ritter) has a very narrow life experience that doesn’t really match up with what people out there every day are living through and going through.

“In a time like this I think I can be even more effective.”