NOTE: The number of terms served by Sen. Grassley was updated in this story at 1:20 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, 2013
DES MOINES – Sen. Charles Grassley says his decision to seek re-election for a seventh term in 2016 is rooted in his desire to maintain stability, continuity and influence for Iowa’s federal delegation in a governmental system where seniority means clout.
Grassley, 80, a New Hartford Republican who told an Iowa Public Television audience he plans to run for the U.S. Senate again, said his decision was influenced by Sen. Tom Harkin’s announcement earlier this year that he retire from the Senate in January 2015. Grassley noted that Iowa currently has one of the most-senior Senate delegations with his six terms and Harkin, 73, serving five terms since first winning election in 1984.
“You get a lot done with seniority,” Grassley told reporters after Friday’s IPTV “Iowa Press” taping. “I think if Iowa is going to start over two years from now with two very junior senators that it would hurt Iowa’s opportunity to get things done in the Iowa Senate.”
Grassley, who was born on Sept. 17, 1933, currently ranks as the second-oldest senator – four months younger than Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. He said he continues to enjoy his work and has a lot more that he wants to get accomplished in Washington D.C. before he ends his elective life.
“I’m a firm believer if you do a good job at what you’re doing, people recognize it and the future takes care of itself,” said Grassley, who noted he is making plans to seek re-election in 2016 but added that it’s not taking much of his time since he made the decision a couple of months ago.
“I’m concentrating on doing my job for Iowans, on being there when we’re in session, doing my oversight, doing my legislation, doing my town meetings in the 99 counties every year,” he said.
“I like serving Iowans,” Grassley added. “I enjoy my work. I feel very good about being able to do the job and there’s a lot to accomplish. If I accomplished all I wanted to accomplish, there would still be a lot to accomplish.”
Grassley, who started his political career in the Iowa Legislature and served in the U.S. House, has been a Senate fixture since defeating Democrat John Culver in 1980. He was re-elected to six-year terms in 1986, 1992, 1998, 2004 and 2010.
Reaction to Grassley’s announcement was swift among elated Republicans.
“The governor is a long-time supporter of Sen. Grassley’s, and believes he is a tremendous asset to the people of Iowa as our senior senator,” said Tim Albrecht, spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad. “Chuck Grassley’s work ethic, combined with his Iowa common-sense approach to budgeting, are much needed in Washington, and the governor is thankful for his service.”
The response was much more muted among Iowa Democrats who have struggled to find challengers who are willing to take on a popular senator who visits all 99 Iowa counties every year and rolls up huge margins of victory in his re-election bids.
“Sometimes people just don’t know when to quit,” said Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Christina Freundlich in reacting to the news of Grassley’s re-election plans.
Gazette reporter James Q. Lynch contributed to this report.