Column by Matthew Roth
Iowa Democratic senator Tom Harkin has recently announced that he will not seek re-election for a sixth consecutive term in 2014. His retirement comes as a surprise to many, as he has become a powerful, out-spoken liberal in recent years. Harkin has a long history serving in the Senate, he has served 30 years after his current term ends, and he even ran for a presidential nomination in 1992.
Throughout his experiences in the Senate, however, he was a strong advocate for many democratic principles. Harkin may be best known for his legislative work in making education affordable, contributing to forming a fair and equal health care system and improving the quality of lives for Americans with disabilities.
Harkin’s time in the Senate has made him a political hero in his home state here in Iowa. It is always a loss for politics to lose such a strong player, but Harkin felt like his time in the service was over, saying to the Associated Press Jan. 26, “It’s time to step aside.”
After the 2012 presidential election, Iowa remains a swing state.
“Iowa (is) in the top tier of competitive Senate races for 2014,” Rob Collins, director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement.
Several political figures including current U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley, Democrat, Steve King, Republican, and Tom Latham, Republican, have all expressed interest in filling Harkin’s open seat.
On the national scale, Tom Harkin is the second Democratic senator to declare retirement from the 2014 election. This creates two open seats, both in swing states that the Democratic Party must fill to keep a tight grip of control in the Senate.
Currently, Democrats in the Senate hold a 55-45 majority, but the next round of elections could easily change that. In a worst-case scenario, both of these retirements will allow the GOP to take control of the Senate, and if the GOP also retains control of the House in 2014, the president will face two years of congressional gridlock.