Sen. Harkin, Iowa Democrat, won't seek 6th term
January 26th, 2013
11:42 AM ET
9 years ago

Sen. Harkin, Iowa Democrat, won't seek 6th term

(CNN) - Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who has represented Iowa in the U.S. Senate since 1984, will not seek re-election in 2014.

"I have the privilege to be able to make this decision on my own terms, which not everyone can, and I'm deeply grateful to the people of Iowa that I do have that opportunity. I've been extremely fortunate," he said in a written statement, adding he does not "by any means plan to retire completely from public life at the end of this Congress."

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Before serving five terms in the Senate, Harkin represented the state in the U.S. House and served in the Navy. The 73-year old would be 81 years old at the end of a sixth term.

He told the Des Moines Register he has "mixed feelings" about this decision, but said in his statement, "After 40 years, I just feel it's somebody else's turn."

He is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, with a broad swath of jurisdiction. He played an important role in support of President Barack Obama's health reform law.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet issued a statement saying he has "seen firsthand Tom Harkin's strong commitment to the people of Iowa" and appreciated "that Senator Harkin has made this decision so early in the cycle, giving us ample time to recruit a strong Democratic candidate for this seat."

President Barack Obama wrote in a statement, "By the time Senator Harkin finishes his fifth term, he will have represented the people of Iowa in the United States Congress for an incredible 40 years. He has served in the U.S. Senate longer than any Democrat in Iowa's history. During his tenure, he has fought passionately to improve quality of life for Americans with disabilities and their families, to reform our education system and ensure that every American has access to affordable health care. Senator Harkin will be missed, and Michelle and I join Iowans in thanking him for his long-standing service and wish him and his wife, Ruth, all the best in the future."

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released a statement describing his retiring colleague as "a pillar of the Senate."

"Senator Harkin has been a champion for improving Americans' access to affordable health care throughout his entire career, and Americans will continue to benefit from his commitment to preventive care," Reid said. “Senator Harkin's work on behalf of people with disabilities has changed millions of lives and advanced the cause of equality for which he has fought tirelessly for decades. And his work combating child labor and human rights abuses will endure for years to come."

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz posted to Twitter that Harkin's "decision not to seek re-election is a loss for us all."

Republicans see the retirement as an opportunity to pick up a new seat in the Senate.

"Today's announcement by Senator Harkin immediately vaults Iowa into the top tier of competitive Senate races next year," said Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "With Democrats already on defense in a number of key states such as West Virginia, Louisiana, South Dakota and others, there is no question that this is very troubling news for Harry Reid and his liberal friends in Washington."

At this point, Democrats will be defending 21 of the 35 Senate seats up for election in 2014. They currently have an advantage with 55 seats in the Senate (including two independents who caucus with them) to Republicans' 45 seats.

Harkin's announcement comes after Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-West Virginia, and Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, each announced this month they will not seek re-election in 2014.

Harkin won his 2008 election with 63% of the vote.

Iowa's other senator is Republican Chuck Grassley, whose sixth term expires in 2016. Grassley is 79 years old. A prolific user of Twitter, he posted on Saturday afternoon, "Thank you to Senator Tom Harkin for his service. I wish him well."

In his second bid for the U.S. House – in 1974, his first successful run - Harkin worked a variety of jobs as part of his campaign to communicate he understood people's concerns.

- CNN's Mark Preston, Dana Bash, Paul Steinhauser, Peter Hamby, Kevin Bohn, Kevin Liptak and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report

Filed under: Iowa • Tom Harkin
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. ugh

    Another dem+rat leaving.....

    January 26, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. joey

    TERM LIMITS! Like two terms max, and if you are already a millionaire, no pay for you...its about service.

    January 26, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. gt

    to many old ,been there to long senators....thats good a thing he is out....

    January 26, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    While I wholeheartedly understand that they all wish to step down, I am not sure how to look at this. Part of me says that these career politicians want to enjoy retirement, while the other part says they want to get out of the fire before they get burned. Hopefully they try to mentor and instill upon the younger reps a sense of morals and ethics you rarely see in todays "youths".

    January 26, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  5. OrganicManLives_N_anOraganicUNiverSE

    WE need to get the old guys out of the way they have way too much baggage, limits and connections to be useful to the public.

    January 26, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. Tom

    Another win for the American people.

    January 26, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  7. snowdogg

    A Democratic voice in GOP majority state... will be missed.

    January 26, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. Conservative Liberal

    Harken is the only proven consistent proponent of filibuster reform (both while in the majority and minority). Tom Udall has pledged to be the same.

    January 26, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. WJanet

    Good news for the American people, is you have passed the age 65 it is time to go, your brain is not what it used to be and that goes for Democrats and Republicans.

    January 26, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  10. Larry

    Harkin has been a good man and a good Senator.Thanks for your years of excellent service.

    January 26, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. Zwei Stein

    He's done a great job. I like the fact that he knows when it's time to retire. Enjoy it Senator.

    January 26, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  12. Rick

    Thank you Senator Harkin for your your honorable service to both Iowa and the nation at large. You will be sorely missed. California could use you, if later you decide to re-enter politics.

    January 26, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. what's up

    America thanks you for leaving!

    January 26, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  14. Laura M

    Tom Harkin is one of the most hardworking, honest, dedicated public servants this country has ever had. I am so sad he is leaving. His last day will be a very sad day for our country.

    January 26, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  15. blake

    Good riddance. Time to replace this far left dinosaur with a social and fiscal conservative.

    January 26, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. A Kickin` Donkey

    Why is it that Democrats are almost always more upstanding and of greater probity than Republicans?

    I applaud Harkin for saying that "its somebody else`s turn. Can`t imagine that kind of unselfishness from the typical Republican but then I`ve got imagines of Vitter, Ensign, Joh/son, McConnell, etc. in my mind.

    Even when they exhibit bad behavior [e.g. Anthony Weiner] the Democratic Party purges them. Can you imagine the GOP purging Vitter?

    January 26, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. Ordinary Average American

    "You know what, it’s somebody else’s turn." Thank you for finally realizing that Mr. Harkin. Now, tell your fellow long time Senators that it's time for them to go, too! Enough already!

    January 26, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. ug


    January 26, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  19. talleytone

    but hey he has a great pension

    January 26, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. USA

    Everyone is Retiring??!!

    January 26, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  21. George

    Republicans think they're going to win in Iowa? They haven't won there in years and they have no chance now. Iowans are way too smart for that.

    January 26, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. Name lynn

    Tom harkin so long an live a good life. Someone will be fighting to get your seat a male or female.

    January 26, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  23. KCRick

    Iowans, if you want to stop the Progressive agenda, elect a Republican!

    January 26, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. abnguy

    It is always sad to see a veteran retire from congress. I prefer vets in office as they have a better understanding of the cost of freedom than community organizers and draft dodgers which will lead to better decision making.

    January 26, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. well

    this fake progressive rat, having sucked enough blood of the people, all in the name of the people, is now fleeing the sinking neo-lib ship.

    January 26, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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