Tom Harkin hints he'll seek sixth term in 2014

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.

  • Good grief !

    Don’t these guys ever get tired?  Boswell, Grassley (losing it) Harkin, Branstad…all really old dudes….btw I still maintain Branstad won’t run again.  Will resign or have health probs and will pave the way for Kim Reynolds to step in and get a leg up on 2014….

    • the Democratic bench is rather thin

      and Harkin chairs one of the most powerful committees. I’m ok with him giving it six more years.

      I just don’t see Branstad stepping down unless his health takes a bad turn. He seems to be enjoying himself, and a sixth term would make him the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.

      • Harkin

        I am shocked and a little disappointed frankly that Harkin may run again, not as a criticism of Harkin or an endorsement of term limits, but you just get tired of hearing some of the attacks that are used against Harkin (vacation home, oil stock, Vietcong ties LOL) I want to have a relevant debate over the issues that Iowa faces, these discussions rarely lead to that.  

        I want to have a new discussion, voters statewide haven’t even heard all of the attacks that the GOP could throw at Braley, its only campaign watchers like us who know Braley.

        Chet Culver can run again for something organized labor and whoever else who may have a problem with Chet doesn’t have as much pull as they did in the past, even among party activists.  

        • Chet

          Chet gifted that plum contract to state employees on his way out the door, so you’d think that would earn him some points with OL.  Rumor floating around that he would like to run for Gov again. Not sure that will happen. Other possibles are Fred Hubbell and maybe Barry Griswell.

          • Hubbell.....maybe....

            But Griswell has no chance…he is far too tied into the discredited “creative class” philosophy and would be painted (rightly so) as the leader of the disastrous Project Destiny fiasco.

            • Griswell's an independent

              I doubt he runs, but he would offer some compelling ideas potentially.  He gave money to Doug Gross and Jim Nussle, neither bothers me, but it could matter ii a primary.  

              • Griz

                yeah, if he has some compelling ideas, forget it. He’ll never make it.  If he got the nomination, he’d never win a general.  Can you see somebody in, say, Hamburg voting for this fatest of Des Moines fat cats? You could say the same for Fred, I guess. And, yeah, “Project Destiny” was a disaster.  That thing was DOA, never had a prayer and its backers were completely clueless and tone deaf.

  • The future

    I really, really want to see some young next-generation Demo women step up into some of these positions. Where are they?  Who are they? Why aren’t they coming forward?  Janet Peterson is one. Perhaps there are some good women candidates (like county supervisors or city council members) in Eastern Iowa that I am not familiar with.  The bench should not be that thin.  That’s not good. I think the fact these old guys are hanging around discourages many from stepping up. So IMHO they aren’t doing their party nor the electorate any favors. That said, of course I would vote for Tom Harkin.  And Braley is certainly headed for the US Senate, either Grassley’s seat or eventually Harkin’s.  Tom is taking him around to stuff already.

    It’s early, but I see TB vulnerable on many, many issues.  For example – the environment, which I believe will soon be right up there with jobs and education as a top line issue, if it is not already.  The question is can the Dems overcome the corporate money tap TB has at his disposal.

    • not the right question

      Why aren’t they coming forward?

      compare the absence of an IDP press release for Megan Suhr’s candidacy in HD28 to Branstad’s visible support for Kim Reynolds.

      Braley will be 57 in 2014, 59 in 2016, 63 in 2020. He’s “waited his turn” and won’t be stepping aside for a woman candidate. Lines form for seats.

      Dem party types tend to fret that women candidates may be perceived as “too liberal.” Naturally, Republican women don’t have that problem.

      The net effect is that “stepping up” amounts to taking on the party’s preferred choice which leads to static. I once worked for a campaign (not in IA) where the experienced and locally popular woman candidate “stepped up,” but the party was going with a guy from out-of-area who had to stretch to establish links. There was a lot of low-level harassment like complete destruction of campaign signs or the mustache+pimples treatment on larger billboards.

      The only high-profile support I’ve seen on the Dem side is the Liz Mathis train — she’s being touted for IA-01 when/if Braley moves on due to her name recc in major IA-01 markets.

      Note that there was no party support for a competitive primary in IA-02 (Loebsack/Vilsack). For an open seat, the party’s preferred choice is usually treated as incumbent-like, so “stepping up” means the usual accusations of weakening the anointed before the general, making the party spend more money, blah-blah.

      • Probably

        I am sure you are right about the party. I’m not being critical of women; I am critical of the IDP for being not bright. I am on the outside, looking in, but that sure seems short sighted to me on the part of the IDP.  And that is why they find themselves in the pickle they are in, vis a vis their bench.  Forgive me just prattling on here, and it is probably naive, but what if an ad hoc group of women on the Demo side got together and in effect “rose up” and said we are running in x, y, and z races…primaries if we have to….and you can support us or not, but we are gonna do it.  These could be political novices, young moms or professional women. I think you might find that on Demo side and indies too, many voters are tired of the same old same old mossbacks.  Need some fresh faces.  The quality of the candidates at present is weak, with a few exceptions.  I was unimpressed with Liz, but thank goodness the Senate didn’t change hands. But if she is all you can cite, that proves my point.

        Isn’t there a group called DAWN that backs women candidates?  They could take the lead, if they aren’t an arm of the party….

        • inertia

          Objectively speaking, it’s easier to run a guy for office. There’s the “liberal” factor + another fact of life: women tend to get later starts on resume-building. Right now, marriage and childbearing rates are on the decline, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue: is a candidate (man or woman) handicapped by not producing the photo of the traditional nuclear family from the get-go? I have a post scheduled for next week that addresses this.

          I think the ‘D’ in DAWN refers to the Dems, so I’d assume strong party links. desmoinesdem might know.

          An ad hoc group is hard to round up. We are living in such a conformist time, so much obedience to authority.

          I was very unimpressed by Mathis as well. I also agree that people are tired of the same-old, hear it all the time.

          • I look forward...

   your post.

            Not to rehash the Senate race, but Golding was much more impressive than Mathis.  I didn’t agree with much of what she had to say, but she knew the issues and articulated them better than Liz.  Liz was probably under orders to keep her mouth shut and let the GOTV carry her. I guess we should be thankful the strategy worked.

            Elizabeth Warren is my “model” female candidate…she’s kick ass – smart, tough, accomplished, really laying it out there. Sexists, tinfoilers, whatever – she says “bring it – I’ll handle all comers”  I’m really curious to see how she fares. She is exponentially smarter than Brown.  You can’t tell me there isn’t an Iowa version of Liz Warren somewhere in this state.

            I wish Staci Appel hadn’t gotten slimed by Sorenson…gawd what a race THAT was. I liked Staci, thought she had a future.

            • I agree

              that Mathis was under orders to keep it shut, but it’s hard to fault the strategy after witnessing her response to fed deductibility and a few other issues during the debate. Golding was definitely quicker on her feet.

              I think Staci Appel got the full-bore “should stay home with the kids” from the Sorenson camp along with other crap.

        • in fairness to the IDP

          most hacks from either party in any state would rather have a powerful committee chair stay on for another term, especially if that person is likely to coast to re-election. Harkin at the top of the ticket in 2014 would probably contribute a lot of money to the coordinated Democratic GOTV campaign. If Harkin retires, it’s a whole different ballgame, with a new candidate struggling to raise money and name rec statewide, and possibly getting outspent by the Republican.

          I don’t think that DAWN’s list is formally tied to the IDP, but I can’t really see that group going against the Democratic establishment.

      • Iowa House Democrats

        did send out press releases touting Rachel Bly in HD-76 and Sara Sedlacek in HD-88, but I think you are right that they worry about women being seen as too liberal.

        Liz Mathis tried to say as little as possible about the issues during her campaign.  Republican women are not discouraged from speaking about issues.

        If Loebsack loses IA-02, a lot of people will regret discouraging Christie Vilsack from running in that district.

  • I am glad Tom is thinking about running again.

    He is at the top of a powerful committee (HELP) and has long membership and former chairmanship of another (Ag).  He knows how the place works, and makes things happen for Iowa.  He is a strong advocate for the most vulnerable-young, old, poor, disabled, despite being in the Senate millionaires club.  He has helped to create a massive portfolio of improvements in the state, such as the Dubuque river museum.  He is a decent, intelligent, and savvy public servant.  I will be sad when he hangs up his gavel.

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