U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin will not seek re-election in 2014, the Iowa Democrat said Saturday.
The 73-year-old Harkin told the Associated Press in an interview, "It's just time to step aside," noting that by the time he would finish a sixth term, he would be 81.
Harkin said the move also would allow a new generation of Democrats to seek higher office.
The announcement comes as a surprise, considering he had $2.7 million in his campaign war chest and was planning a gala fundraiser in Washington next month.
A couple things jump to mind. First, Harkin obviously had designs on running again throughout his final term and made this decision recently. He wasn't likely to draw a particularly strong challenge, but there had been signs that he was growing frustrated with the Senate, most recently criticizing fellow Democrats for not pursuing more aggressive filibuster reform.
Second, the "new generation of Democrats" is almost certainly a code word for "Rep. Bruce Braley," who has shown interest in a statewide bid and is a favorite of Harkin and other Iowa and national Dems. Braley's northeastern 1st is the most Democratic district in the state.
On the GOP side, Rep. Steve King made some noise about a possible Harkin challenge last fall, but has been quiet since. King is a firebrand and would probably make this race more difficult than it has to be. A stronger choice would be Rep. Tom Latham. At the statewide level, we have LG Kim Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, and SoS Matt Schultz as possibilities.
A race against Braley would be no easy task, but the path to 51 looks a bit easier today than it did yesterday.
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