Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014 after serving in Congress for 40 years.

He told the Des Moines Register that “it’s somebody else’s turn.” He went on to say it was not an easy decision to make, but he and his wife want to have a different type of lifestyle that allows them to take dance lessons and spend more time with their family. He said his Senate duties are “very consuming.” His health is not an issue.

Sen. John Kerry was appointed as the new Secretary of State, so Harkin will have the seventh-highest seniority in the Senate. Also, Harkin, together with Iowa’s Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, make up the pair of longest-serving current senators. This means Iowa holds some powerful positions in the Senate, and Harkin’s retirement would throw off this power grip.

Iowa has been very lucky to have two powerful senators representing us, but according to Harkin it is time to give somebody else that opportunity.

Harkin is the chairman on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which is the second-largest appropriations committee. 

Senators who serve on the larger committees do not normally serve on any other committees, but Harkin is also serving on the  U.S. Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Appropriations; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He has done all of this while maintaining about a 60 percent approval rating from Iowans.

Iowa Democrats had strong emotions in reaction to Harkin’s announcement. Harkin has been a Democrat and has virtually been guaranteed re-election for a long time. Now his seat is open for anybody to grab.

Harkin is not making any predictions on who will take his seat, but one thing we can be certain of is that the 2014 Senate race in Iowa will be fierce. 

Get ready for a ridiculous amount of political ads as outside interest groups will be dumping money into this race.

There is already talk of possible candidates and the Republicans feel confident in their chances of being able to take the seat. Republican State Chairman A.J. Spiker said “Iowa is so purple. It’s just a really purple state. Our nominee will be well positioned.”

Democrats will also be looking for somebody who can measure up to Harkin to take his position.

With that being said, don’t think you will get to wait until 2014 to find out who will run. There are several people to watch.

Who to keep an eye on:

Three of Iowa’s four representatives in the House are potential candidates. Steve King (R-2nd), Tom Latham (R-3rd) and Bruce Braley (D-1st) are all being talked about right now.

All of this is very early, so we won’t know who will try to take the seat for some time. This could mean some major reshuffling could be going on at the state and local level come election season if any — or all — of these representatives choose to give up their current positions.

Politicians typically serve in the House of Representatives before moving up to the Senate, making these three very strong possibilities.

There is a long list of potential GOP candidates, but so far there are no commitments. The list includes GOP Chairman Matt Strawn, Iowa Sen. Brad Zaun, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, conservative social activist Bob Vander Plaats and potentially even Representative Pat Grassley (grandson of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley).

There has not been as much talk about potential Democratic candidates; all fingers are pointing to Braley as the guy to beat, as of now.

There is still plenty of time for many other candidates to emerge. This is the list that was created within days of Harkin’s announcement, which came as a shock to some. This race has not even begun yet, so prepare yourselves, things are going to get messy.

Harkin has been Iowa’s leading Democrat on Capitol Hill for the past four decades. He has proven to be a great leader, and we should be thankful for him dedicating his career to serving Iowans.

Once election season rolls around again (it’s coming sooner than you think), we will be frustrated as outside interests groups pump money into a ridiculous amount of advertisements, but for now we can just relax and thank Harkin for all of his hard work.


Hannah Dankbar is a senior in political science and Spanish from Johnston, Iowa.

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