Many Iowa Democrats have been expecting Senator Tom Harkin to retire when his current term expires in 2014. However, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions indicated yesterday that he plans to run for re-election at least one more time.
Harkin was first elected to the U.S. House in 1974 and became Iowa’s junior U.S. senator after defeating Republican incumbent Roger Jepsen in 1984. Harkin’s 1990 and 1996 re-election campaigns were nail-biters, but he’s had an easier road since defeating GOP challenger Greg Ganske by double digits in 2002. Republicans failed to recruit a top-tier candidate against Harkin in 2008. I don’t know what was more embarrassing: Chris Reed’s pathetic debate performance against Harkin or losing to the incumbent by more than 20 points.
Harkin was the guest on this weekend’s Iowa Public Television program “Iowa Press.” Click the link for the full video and transcript. Toward the end of the program, Associated Press Senior Political Writer Mike Glover asked the senator whether he plans to run for another term:
Harkin: I knew you were going to ask that question. So, I thought about it and I said, you know, I have not decided what I’m going to do in 2020 yet.
Glover: So that means 2014 you’re running again?
Harkin: Well, look, I feel good. God has been good to me in terms of my health. I feel very good. Contrary to what my political opponents say I think my mental faculties are still pretty good. I love my job. I like my work. I think there’s a lot of challenges confronting us. I love my committee work on education and health.
Glover: So you’re running?
Harkin: I beg your pardon?
Glover: You’re running?
Harkin: Look, that’s to be determined some other time. Some other time.
I think Iowa Republicans will give Harkin another pass if he runs for a sixth term. Plenty of other races are more likely to be competitive in 2014. Control of the Iowa legislature will be at stake, and one or more of the Congressional races could be close. I still believe Terry Branstad will seek a sixth term as governor in 2014, but if he doesn’t, the Republican primary to replace him will be a barn-burner.
U.S. Representative Bruce Braley is often seen as a likely successor to Harkin. If Harkin runs for re-election in 2014, Braley’s best chance for moving up would be in 2016, assuming Chuck Grassley retires after 36 years in the U.S. Senate.