The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Iowans Prepare for a Long-Forgotten Ancient Ritual: Open-Seat Senate Race


Over the weekend, Iowa Democratic senator Tom Harkin, 73, announced he will retire, after a mere five terms in the U.S. Senate. His departure creates the first open Senate seat in Iowa since 1974.

The speculation about his replacement is focusing on three members of the U.S. House from Iowa — one Democrat and two Republicans:

Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley said Sunday that he is considering running for Harkin’s seat because supporters statewide have encouraged him to do so.

The Republican speculation is likely to focus on U.S. Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King.

Latham, of Clive, is a veteran member of the House Appropriations Committee who has won 10 consecutive elections. Latham’s office didn’t rule out a run for the Senate on Sunday.

“No decision has been made at this time. All doors remain open at this point,” said James Carstensen, Latham’s chief of staff.

Rep. Steve King, of Kiron, won a sixth term last fall by beating Iowa’s Democratic former first lady Christie Vilsack. King said in a statement that the retirement announcement was a surprise, and he congratulated Harkin on his long career.

“Iowans now have a real opportunity to elect a true constitutional conservative to help lead us out of our crisis of debt and deficit,” said King, who didn’t address whether he might run.

Latham has served in Congress since 1995; in 2012, under redrawn district lines, he beat a Democratic incumbent, Rep. Leonard Boswell, 52.2 percent to 43.5 percent. Latham’s district is made up of Iowa’s southwestern counties, and he carried all of them except Polk County.

Last year, King beat Christie Vilsack, wife of former governor and U.S. secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack, 52.9 percent to 44.8 percent. King’s district is made up of Iowa’s northwestern counties.

USA Today looks at the map of 2014 Senate races and notes that with Harkin and Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia retiring,

Democrats must try to hang onto two open seats in addition to defending 18 incumbents — and seven of the 20 races are in states that voted Republican in the presidential election. The red-state Senators on the 2014 ballot include Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Republicans will have 13 senators up for re-election, all but one — Susan Collins of Maine — from red states.

Tags: Bruce Braley , Steve King , Tom Harkin , Tom Latham


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