TOPEKA (AP) — Gov. Kathleen Sebelius hasn’t ruled out joining President-elect Barack Obama’s administration eventually, despite her decision this month to take herself out of consideration for his Cabinet.

“That is one of the doors that will continue to be open,” Sebelius said during an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. “And he has pretty much said that.”

On Dec. 6, the Democratic governor had announced she would stay in Kansas to deal with pressing budget problems, reviving speculation about her running for the Senate in 2010. The state constitution prevents her from seeking another term as governor then.

Her comments Tuesday appeared to cast doubt on speculation about the Senate. Sebelius said, “I would say there are lots of doors open and no specific decisions about anything.”

Some Republicans remain skeptical that Sebelius was a serious contender for a Cabinet job. Christian Morgan, the Kansas GOP’s executive director, suggested Sebelius used “an old political trick” to save face and that her explanation was “a little phony.”

Sebelius is well-regarded in national Democratic Party circles for winning two terms in GOP-leaning Kansas. Party leaders picked her to give the Democratic response to President Bush’s last State of the Union address in January.

And many Democrats saw her as close to Obama after she endorsed him in January and campaigned regularly for him. She was one of four finalists for the party’s vice presidential spot, until Obama picked Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.

Obama’s victory immediately led to speculation nationally that Sebelius would join the cabinet, and she was most often mentioned as a potential secretary of energy, education or labor.

But as the speculation continued, Kansas’ budget picture worsened. Legislative researchers now project the state will end its current fiscal year on June 30 with a $141 million deficit and, if the problems aren’t addressed, the gap will grow to more than $1 billion by June 30, 2010.

“That adds additional pressure and a sense of responsibility,” Sebelius said. “I mean, this is the job I campaigned for. It’s the job that I love. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to move this state forward, so to walk out the door didn’t ever come together very well.”

She said personal reasons were involved as well. Her husband, Gary, is a federal magistrate judge, “a job he loves,” she said.

The governor said had she taken a job in Washington, she would have had to consider living apart from her husband for a significant amount of time. She noted that their 34th wedding anniversary is today.

“At the end of the day, I couldn’t get to the point that it felt OK,” she said. “I am not disappointed at all with the president-elect. He may be a bit disappointed in me, but I think we’re just fine.”

She said she “lived in a parallel universe” while trying to decide, excited about a potential job in Washington while wondering, “How in the world am I going to do this?”

“I have to tell you that the decision that I made a couple of weeks ago came as somewhat of a surprise to even me,” she said. “This was not an easy decision to make.”

But Sebelius also said she believes Obama will be president for eight years and, “This is not a forever-and-ever choice.”

Republicans have worried that she would seek a Senate seat since she won her second term as governor in 2006. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican, confirmed this month he’ll keep his promise not to seek another term — and is widely expected to run for governor.

Sebelius has proven adept at raising money, collecting about $10 million in cash contributions for her two gubernatorial campaigns.

Last week, Larry Gates, the state Democratic Party’s chairman, said Sebelius’ decision to stay in Kansas suggested a Senate run is “absolutely back on the table.”

But Sebelius said her focus is on the budget problems and the 2009 Legislature, which convenes Jan. 12.

“The notion that somehow I have this grand plot of exactly figuring out what the next steps are couldn’t be further from the truth because, as I say, I somewhat surprised myself,” she said. “There is no backdoor plot that people aren’t aware of, and if there is, I wish somebody would tell me what it was.”