DES MOINES — Scratch Gov. Terry Branstad’s name off the list of Iowa politicians who might be interested in replacing retiring Iowa U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, but keep Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds’ name at least in pencil for the time being.
Harkin reshuffled Iowa’s political deck over the weekend when he announced that he intended to retire in 2014 rather than run for re-election, marking the end of a 40-year career at the nation’s Capitol. The surprise development opened the door in both political parties to a rare open U.S. Senate seat and touched off speculation about possible candidates. But Branstad quickly closed the door on any talk of him seeking a move from Des Moines to Washington, D.C.
“In my case, I love this state. I came back to run for governor because I think I can make a real difference in this position,” Branstad told reporters at his weekly news conference Monday. “Over the years, I have been encouraged to run for the Senate a number of times, and I’ve always said, ‘I’d love to run, but I don’t want to serve.’ I don’t want to go to Washington, D.C. I don’t want to spend time there. I don’t mind visiting the place, but I love this state, and I don’t want to spend six years in Washington, D.C.”
For her part, Reynolds said she was flattered to see her name included as possible 2014 senatorial candidates. She said she has received encouragement from supporters and indicated she is keeping her options open. But at the same time, she insisted that her main focus is on getting the Branstad administration’s 2013 proposals to provide property tax relief and reform education approved by the Legislature this session.
“I’m focused on taking Iowa to the next level,” Reynolds told reporters. “That, honestly, is where my focus will be. It’s 2013. Let’s get these great things done. Let’s show D.C. how it’s done in Iowa, and then we’ll look at 2014.”
Harkin, who is 73, has been in the U.S. Senate since 1985 and the U.S. Congress since 1975.
Although Harkin’s departure raises the political stakes in Iowa’s 2014 general election, Branstad said it is important for Iowa elected officials in Des Moines and Washington to keep the focus on the immediate challenges facing the state and the nation.
“I think it would be a mistake, just because he’s made an early decision not to seek re-election, to all of a sudden shift to the politics of 2014,” Branstad said. “We have important policy decisions at both the state and national level to be decided in this year 2013.”
Branstad thanked Harkin for his long service to the people of Iowa and applauded his accomplishments on behalf of disabled Americans and his support for agriculture, renewable energy and other issues important to the nation during his four decades in Washington.