JOHNSTON — Fresh off re-election to a sixth term, western Iowa U.S. Rep. Steve King says it’s too early to talk about the next election, but he isn’t closing the door on challenging Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin in 2014.
King, who will appear on today’s edition of Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, didn’t mention Harkin by name but told reporters that he’s made no decision on his political future, including the possibility of appearing on a statewide ballot.
“There’s a question I hadn’t had time to contemplate since the election,” King said. “We’re only in the second day after the election.”
King, 63, defeated former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack by nearly 8 percentage points after a campaign marked by sharp exchanges and unprecedented spending.
Although King had a Republican voter registration advantage of 50,000, he won by fewer than 32,000 votes in the sprawling northwest Iowa 4th District.
King defended his performance, saying he predicted from the beginning he would get 54 percent of the vote, “I would learn things about myself I did not know” and Vilsack and her allies would spend $5 million to $10 million.
Unofficial results show he received 53.25 percent of the vote, and he and Vilsack spent $6 million, making it the most expensive congressional race in Iowa history.
Asked about 2014, King, who previously served in the Iowa Senate, expects Gov. Terry Branstad to seek a sixth term. Branstad has not said he will run, but he is raising money.
“I am a great Terry Branstad fan,” King said, adding that the governor was a “big help” in his just-finished campaign.
Asked about the other 2014 race — for the U.S. Senate seat Harkin holds — King said he’s not ready to make a decision. Harkin, 73, has not said whether he’ll seek a sixth term.
“I know that’s something that is on the horizon,” King said, “but I think there are some decisions that need to be made before I could comment on that.”
He wants to keep his options open, “but, on the other hand, I don’t want to raise expectations unnecessarily.”
Although voters in the eastern half of Iowa supported President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional incumbents, King said he is not too conservative to run statewide.
“I have a consistent record. I think people know me,” he said. Iowans are looking for common-sense representation, he said, “so I don’t know why that would be an impediment at all.”
King called it a “wonderful privilege, a profound honor” to serve the people of the 4th District.
“I do love this state and the people in it,” King said. “I cherish the opportunity to serve.”