**Written by Doug Powers
“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.
Harkin is a leading liberal in the Senate, chairing the health, education, labor and pensions committee and having served as a key salesman of President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care bill to the wary left.
This announcement means Republicans will have renewed vigor in finding a candidate to make a play for the seat, and Democrats will be energized to find a candidate in time to salvage the Lady Gaga fundraiser:
While Harkin was likely in for a contested race if he had run for reelection, he had $2.7 million in the bank already, according to Federal Election Commission records. He had a February fundraiser planned at $1,500-a-plate with pop superstar Lady Gaga, according to the Register.
Who will be in the running to replace Harkin? Some possibilities:
Harkin’s retirement makes Iowa a ripe target for Republicans as they try to flip at least six seats to win back the Senate.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) did not rule out a 2014 Senate run in November, regardless of whether Harkin would have run.
“I have a consistent record. I think people know me,” he said, arguing his views wouldn’t be “an impediment at all.”
Ten-term Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) is the other Iowa Republican in the House. A primary between King and Latham could follow the tea party vs. establishment narrative that has played out over the past two cycles in Republican primaries.
On the Democratic side, possible candidates include Rep. Bruce Braley, who has also talked about running for governor, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie Vilsack, who lost to King in a 2012 run for Congress.
The thing Harkin will miss most is serving his constituents. Just kidding — he’ll miss the power, which is why so many stay in Congress until they’re carried out:
He added: “To walk away from this position and this power is not an easy thing. But I think it’s the right thing. And I have two years left. I’m not passing the torch sitting down; it’s a running relay. I intend to be very active over the next two years.”
**Written by Doug Powers
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