The PJ Tatler

Breaking: Iowa Senator Tom Harkin Will not Seek Re-Election

Iowa’s senior Senator Tom Harkin told the Associated Press that he will not be running for a sixth term in 2014:

The 73-year-old Harkin tells The Associated Press in an interview, “It’s just time to step aside,” because by the time he would finish a sixth term, he would be 81.

Harkin said it would also allow a new generation of Democrats to seek higher office.

The announcement comes as a surprise, considering he had $2.7 million in his campaign war chest and was planning a fundraiser next month.

Harkin played a lead role in urging the Senate’s more liberal members to back the 2010 health care bill.

No Iowa Republicans have taken formal steps toward seeking the seat. Harkin’s decision eases the burden on the GOP, who have to gain six seats to win the majority.

Harkin has been a prodigious vote-getter throughout his career, running successfully as a strong liberal first for the House and then for the Senate in a fairly conservative state by supporting family farmers and being a big booster of agricultural exports. He introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act in the Senate, becoming its biggest champion. He is known as a far left liberal on social issues, including support for late term abortions, gay marriage, and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

This is a huge break for Republicans. Potential candidates for the GOP include Secretary of State Mike Schultz, Rep. Tom Latham, and Rep. Steve King, who many conservatives would dearly love to see in the race. A likely Democratic candidate, according to the Des Moines Register, is Rep. Bruce Braley. The Democrats would love to get former governor, now Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to run. But he declined the opportunity to run for governor in 2012 and may be perfectly content to remain as ag secretary.

There is speculation that Governor Terry Branstad might run. But he seems to be running for re-election and is probably not in the mix.