Sen. Tom Harkin will not seek re-election when his term is up in 2014, the Iowa Democrat said Saturday, marking an end to a congressional career that has lasted nearly as long as the youngest U.S. senator has been alive.
"I'm 73 years old right now. At the end of this term I'll be 75," Harkin said in a statement. "When the current Congress is over, I will have served in the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for a total of 40 years."
"After 40 years, I just feel it's somebody else's turn," he added.
Harkin's departure will likely stir a fiercely competitive race down the road in 2014, as Republicans vie to send another Iowa conservative to join Chuck Grassley in the Senate. But Harkin's decision Saturday to turn down a run for a sixth term provides just under a two-year cushion for Democrats to vet a replacement. The veteran Democrat is leaving behind considerable seniority in the chamber, as well as a $3 million cash on hand campaign warchest.
"I appreciate that Sen. Harkin has made this decision so early in the cycle, giving us ample time to recruit a strong Democratic candidate for this seat," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Michael Bennet said in a statement. "Iowa has a strong record of electing great Democrats, and I'm confident that we will elect a new Democratic senator next November."
Harkin joins two other senior senators who have recently announced their plans to retire: Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, and more surprisingly, Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss.
"Tom is a passionate progressive, whose deeply-held principles have provided a guiding light to Democrats for decades," Sen. Harry Reid said of his colleague.