Iowa's U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin is not seeking another term

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, 73, isn't running in the 2014 election, which could help Republican ambitions.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, 73, isn't running in the 2014 election, which could help Republican ambitions. (Associated Press)
Posted: January 27, 2013

CUMMING, Iowa - U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said Saturday he would not seek a sixth term in 2014, a decision that eases some of the burden the national Republican Party faces in retaking the Senate.

Harkin, chairman of an influential Senate committee, announced his decision during an interview with the Associated Press, and said the move could surprise some.

But the 73-year-old cited his age - he would be 81 at the end of a sixth term - as a factor in the decision, saying it was time to pass the torch he has held for nearly 30 years, freeing a new generation of Iowa Democrats to seek higher office.

"I just think it's time for me to step aside," Harkin told the AP.

Harkin, first elected in 1984, ranks seventh in seniority, and fourth among majority Democrats. He is chairman of the health, education, labor and pensions committee, and chairman of the largest appropriations subcommittee.

Harkin has long aligned with the Senate's more liberal members, and his signature legislative accomplishment is the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

He also served as a key salesman of President Obama's 2010 health care bill to the wary left.

"I'm not saying that giving this up and walking away is easy. It's very tough," Harkin said at his rural Iowa home south of Des Moines. "But I'm not quitting today. I'm not passing the torch sitting down."

Harkin's news defied outward signals. Besides being beloved in his party, Harkin has $2.7 million in his campaign war chest, second most among members nearing the end of their terms, and was planning a gala fund-raiser in Washington next month featuring pop star Lady Gaga.

Although members of his family have been diagnosed with cancer, Harkin said his health is good - and reported a recent positive colonoscopy. But he said "you never know," and that he wanted to travel and spend his retirement with his wife Ruth "before it's too late."

He also nodded to his political longevity: "The effect of that cascades down and it opens a lot of doors of opportunity" for future candidates, he said.

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