Iowa Sen. Harkin wins fifth term

NOVEMBER 5TH, 2008 | Harkin for Senate

Read the original story at The Des Moines Register

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin cruised to re-election Tuesday, easily capturing a fifth six-year term over Republican challenger Christopher Reed.

Harkin, 68, a Democrat from Cumming, was well ahead in early returns in what was expected to be the largest margin of victory in his Senate career. The Associated Press projected his win shortly after the polls closed.

Harkin and his wife, Ruth, joined fellow Democrats at an election night party at the Hotel Fort Des Moines, where he thanked Iowans for again placing their trust in him. He had spent the final three days of the campaign barnstorming 16 Iowa cities with Gov. Chet Culver and other Democrats.

“You know, it is about time we look across Iowa … and our nation … and find ways to work together, not tear each other apart,” Harkin said Tuesday night in prepared remarks. He declared he was ready to get back to work with a new president and a new Congress and focus on priorities to bring the country together.

Reed, 36, a Marion businessman and a conservative political newcomer, never gained traction in his bid to unseat Harkin after narrowly winning a three-way Republican primary in June.

Reed had repeatedly tried to draw distinctions between himself and the populist Harkin, describing himself as a fiscal and social conservative who would fix a broken federal government. Reed promised to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage, to fight illegal immigration, and to support the U.S. war in Iraq.

Reed’s harshest criticism came during a televised debate when he accused Harkin of “becoming the Toyko Rose of al-Qaida and Middle East terrorism.” Harkin, a critic of President Bush’s Iraq policy, said afterward that Reed had “kind of lost his bearings” and predicted the remarks would hurt the Republican’s political future.

Harkin, known as a bare-knuckled political street fighter, toned down his usual partisan barbs during this year’s campaign. He spoke proudly of his work on a farm bill he described as good for agriculture and rural America.

He promised to work to provide everyone access to a good education. He called for reducing U.S. reliance on imported oil and pledged to work for affordable health care. He said the country needs to get out of Iraq.

Harkin is the son of a coal miner father and a Slovenian immigrant mother who died when he was 10. He spent a decade in the U.S. House before unseating incumbent Republican Sen. Roger Jepsen in 1984. He then defeated Republican House members Tom Tauke in 1990, Jim Ross Lightfoot in 1996, and Greg Ganske in 2002.

This year some better known Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham, decided against challenging Harkin in what GOP leaders had expected to be a down year for their party.

Reed, a Navy veteran like Harkin, faced an uphill battle from the start. He began July with only $292 in his campaign fund compared to $4.1 million for Harkin, federal records showed. | digg this | stumble it! | share on facebook

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