Harkin formally opens bid for fifth term

MARCH 10TH, 2008 | Harkin for Senate

By The Associated Press

CUMMING, Iowa — U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin this morning formally made his bid for a fifth term in the Senate, seeking to continue more than 30 years in national politics by declaring himself “a proud progressive” with a record of delivering for home-state voters.

“The fact is, I have the same passion as when I first went to Congress,” Harkin told about 200 people in his hometown of Cumming. “I feel the same outrage when I see injustice and unfairness toward any human being. And I have the same fighting spirit when it comes to standing up for Iowa values and Iowa priorities.”

Harkin traveled to this town just south of Des Moines to formally declare his candidacy, then planned to fly to Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Mason City, Sioux City and Council Bluffs to repeat it. The announcement is not surprising, as Harkin has spend months raising money and fine-tuning his campaign organization.

He spent the weekend leading up to his announcement at a series of fundraisers throughout the state.

“We need to change direction and I want to help lead that change,” said Harkin. “And it is by no means only Democrats who want change. Most independents and, I dare say, a majority of Republicans agree that our country has gotten seriously off track in the last seven years.”

In his announcement, Harkin said voters are soured by “an endless, pointless war in Iraq” as well as an economy that’s stagnant and a health care system that’s broken.

Harkin argued that his tenure in the Senate has positioned him to be a leader in changing Washington. He heads the Senate Agriculture committee as well as a budget committee that finances health and education programs.

“That’s why today I am announcing my candidacy to be your voice and your vote in the United States Senate for another six years,” said Harkin.

Harkin, 68, is arguably the most successful Democratic politician in the state’s history. After serving as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam era, Harkin returned to Iowa and lost a 1972 race for Congress. He won two years later, ousting an incumbent Republican in the 1974 elections driven by the Watergate scandal, and remain in the House for 10 years. He ousted incumbent Republican Sen. Roger Jepsen in 1984, the same election in which Ronald Reagan swept to a second term and easily carried Iowa.

Harkin sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, but dropped from the race quickly after faring poorly in early tests after Iowa’s leadoff precinct caucuses.

Republicans have made Harkin their top target each time he sought re-election, and Harkin has routinely dispatched a string of Republican congressmen in expensive and hard-hitting campaigns. The climate is far different his year.

Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje is seeking the Republican nomination, and former state legislator George Eichhorn, of Stratford, has expressed an interest. Harkin would be a prohibitive favorite against either.

While Harkin has already spent $1.5 million and has more than $3.3 million in the bank, Rathje’s last financial disclosure said he had $58 on hand and debts of nearly $20,000. Eichhorn has yet to form a campaign committee.

Harkin said he’s formed bipartisan alliances with Republican Richard Lugar to shape the farm bill in past years, and with former Sen. Bob Dole to write the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law for the disabled that Harkin often cites as one of his biggest achievements.

“Something else I’ve learned over the years: people are sick of partisanship and bickering,” said Harkin. “They want to get things done in Washington.”

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