Iowa Senator Tom Harkin won't run for re-election
Good news for Republicans looking to take the Senate in 2014. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who as recently as last week looked like he was running hard for re-election, has decided not to seek a sixth term.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said Saturday he will not seek a sixth term in 2014, a decision that eases some of the burden the national Republican Party faces in retaking the Senate.
Harkin, chairman of an influential Senate committee, announced his decision during an interview with The Associated Press, saying the move could surprise some.
The 73-year-old cited his age - he would be 81 at the end of a sixth term - as a factor in the decision, saying it was time to pass the torch he has held for nearly 30 years, freeing a new generation of Iowa Democrats to seek higher office.
"I just think it's time for me to step aside," Harkin told the AP.
Harkin, first elected in 1984, ranks seventh in seniority and fourth among majority Democrats. He is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and chairman of the largest appropriations subcommittee.
Harkin has long aligned with the Senate's more liberal members, and his signature legislative accomplishment is the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. He also served as a key salesman of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul to the wary left.
"I'm not saying that giving this up and walking away is easy. It's very tough," Harkin said at his rural Iowa home south of Des Moines. "But I'm not quitting today. I'm not passing the torch sitting down."
Harkin's news defied outward signals. Besides being beloved in his party, Harkin has $2.7 million in his campaign war chest, second most among members nearing the end of their terms, and was planning a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., next month featuring pop star Lady Gaga.
No Republican of note had announced to challenge the Senator prior to Harkin's decision. That, of course, will now change. It appears that two excellent candidates willl probably throw their hat in the ring on the GOP side -- Reps. Tom Latham and Steven King.
Latham is more the moderate and a good friend of Speaker John Boehner. King is the darling of conservatives. A primary would set up a classic contest that would have the potential of being a divisive bloodletting.
Other GOP hopefuls might include Secretary of State Matt Schultz and former state GOP chairman Matt Strawn.
For the Democrats, Rep. Bruce Braley appears to be a favorite of insiders. Another potential candidate could be Christie Vilsack, wife of Obama's agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, who challenged Governor Terry Branstad in 2010 and lost.
Iowa is a 50-50 state, but with a good candidate and financing, plus the fact that it's an off year election, I like the GOP's chances to flip the seat.