DES MOINES – Sen. Tom Harkin threw his support behind Rep. Bruce Braley’s campaign to succeed him in the U.S. Senate and signaled to fellow Democrats Saturday that the Waterloo congressman should be the party’s 2014 nominee.
“We Democrats have our candidate for the United States Senate. Bruce Braley is our candidate,” Harkin declared in endorsing Braley’s U.S. Senate bid. “We’re united behind him and we’re going to do everything we can to help him succeed and win this race.”
Harkin, a native of Cumming who said in January he would not seek re-election next year, made the announcement with Braley at his side at a packed event at the Hotel Fort Des Moines.
Since announcing his retirement plans, Harkin said he sat back to allow Iowa Democrats to choose the candidate who would emerge as a “proud and pragmatic progressive” with Midwest roots and Iowa values to represent rural and urban interests in the Senate. He said he was looking for a hard-worker with a proven record of getting things done on behalf of his Iowa constituents.
“I think that person has emerged. I think it’s become quite clear to the people of Iowa that Congressman Bruce Braley really fits that description,” Harkin told reporters before an afternoon rally. He said the Waterloo Democrat has represented a large area of eastern Iowa via redistricting and is someone who knows how to win elections by polling support from Democrats, independents and “some” Republicans.
“He’s got a good message, he’s raised money and he’s got pretty much the Democratic Party in Iowa behind him,” said Harkin, Harkin, was elected to the U.S. House in 1974 and served five terms before he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984. “It made it very clear to me that maybe I should get on board this train.”
Braley said he was honored by Harkin’s endorsement and could not “overstate how significant this is personally to me” given that Harkin inspired him to get active in Democratic politics as a student at Iowa State University.
“He’s been my mentor, he’s been my friend and he’s been my hero for many, many years, so this is an extraordinarily significant endorsement for me personally and I couldn’t be prouder to have it,” said Braley.
“For more than four decades, Sen. Harkin has stood for integrity, principle, and a commitment to fight for those who can’t speak for themselves,” he added. “Tom has always said that America is strongest when we create opportunity, lift people up, and empower them to live the American dream. I’m running for the Senate to continue that fight because I care deeply about the future of Iowa.”
So far, no major Iowa Republican has emerged as a candidate for the 2014 GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that Harkin will vacate in 2015.
Harkin said that does not surprise him.
“It’s obvious they don’t really have one of Bruce’s caliber. If they did, that person would emerge and they just don’t,” Harkin said. “I think it’s clear that whoever they put up is going to have a very tough run.
The five-term senator said he believes Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate post have “increased immeasurably with Congresseman Braley now being our candidate.”
Harkin joined U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, an Iowa City Democrat who represents Iowa’s 2nd congressional district, former 3rd District U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell of Des Moines, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, 71 state legislators and 11 Iowa labor organizations in endorsing Braley’s U.S. Senate bid.
Last week Braley reported he had raised $1.07 million for his Senate campaign and has more than $1 million cash on hand as of March 30.