Two of the top political stories in Iowa in 2013 have implications for agriculture. They also signal the importance of the 2014 elections come fall, despite the new year being an "off year" for the political process—no Iowa caucuses, no presidential election. The top two political stories are: Tom Harkin is retiring from the U.S. Senate and Tom Latham is retiring from the U.S. House. These two open seats will cause a ripple effect.
First, long-time U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, announced he's retiring. He made his surprise announcement in January 2013. Harkin, who hails from Cumming, was first elected to Congress representing southwest Iowa in 1974 and was elected to the Senate in 1984. Harkin is a former head of the Senate Ag Committee and helped write the 2002 and 2008 farm bills. He now serves as chair of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Harkin is 74 years old and says "it's time to retire."
Latham and Harkin both say it's time for them to retire at the end of their terms in 2014
Latham, a Republican, made his surprise announcement a couple weeks ago--in early December. He said he won't be running for reelection in 2014 and will leave Congress after serving there for 20 years. His announcement caught Iowa's political world off-guard. Latham was first elected to Congress in 1994. He's 65 years old and a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and is also on the U.S. House Ag Committee. Latham serves Iowa's third congressional district, which includes Des Moines and all of southwest Iowa. His father founded Latham Seed Company at Alexander, Iowa many years ago and it is still a Latham family-owned, family-run company.
Why retire? Latham says he wants to spend time with his family, explaining that he's been married for 39 years. For the first half of that time, he was often away from home working with the family business. For the past 20 years he's often been away from home because of his work as a lawmaker in Washington.