Harkin’s Retirement Creates Senate Opening for the GOP

Tom Harkin

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) won’t run again in 2014

It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to win the six seats they need to gain control the Senate in 2014, but their chances have improved slightly thanks to the retirement of Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin. Over the weekend Harkin surprised the political world by announcing he will not run again in 2014. From Harkin’s office:

At the end of this term I’ll be 75.  When the current Congress is over, I will have served in the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for a total of 40 years.  After 40 years, I just feel it’s somebody else’s turn.  I can’t put into words what an honor it is to serve Iowa.  And I don’t by any means plan to retire completely from public life at the end of this Congress.  But I am going to make way for someone new in this Senate seat.  I think that is right not just for me, but for Iowa, as well.

Harkin has represented the state for almost a four decades and as the chairman of a powerful committee he had the potential to be a very strong fundraiser. He is well known in the state and has an incredibly long history of winning. Without Harkin, the Republicans will likely have a better chance of picking up the seat in an open race.

Iowa is a true swing state. President Obama won 52 percent of the vote in 2012 but in 2010 Republican Terry Branstad won the gubernatorial election with 53 percent of the vote. It won’t be surprising if the open Iowa senate race was one of the most hotly contested elections of 2014.

It is interesting that Harkin announced his retirement just days after the Senate Democrats failed to reform the filibuster, which has been a long term goal of Harkin’s. When Democrats chickened out Harkin said President Obama “might as well take a four-year vacation” because Senate Democrats effectively killed any chance of advancing his agenda.

It appears Harkin decided to follow his own advice. There is after all little point to being part of a majority if it doesn’t want to govern.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at