JOHNSTON, Iowa --- Sen. Chuck Grassley hasn’t decided whether to seek a seventh term in 2016, but has no reason to believe his Democratic colleague, Sen. Tom Harkin, won’t be on the ballot next year.
As the Iowa Republican has repeatedly done when asked about his re-election plans, Grassley, 79, said he won’t make that decision until closer to the end of his current six-year term.
While he’s in good health – “I run four times a week, three miles,” he told reporters after taping Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press Jan. 11 – Grassley said his health will be one factor in his decision.
He doesn’t want to continue to serve if he’s in poor health, Grassley said, referring to Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who served 58 years in Congress – longer than anyone else, and Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the only senator to reach the age of 100 while in office.
“Why don't you ask me in two years,” Grassley said, adding that his health is good.
Although he is raising money, Grassley said he’s focusing on his job not whether he will run again.
“I think that has been the strength of my longevity in the United States Senate is that people don't see me as campaigning for election, they see me as doing my job of representing the people, going to the 99 counties every year, answering all my mail and staying engaged,” he said.
While he hasn’t made a decision on his own future, Grassley later told reporters he believes Harkin, whose term ends in January 2015, will run again.
“I have seen no indication that he is not going to run except what you see in some rags in Washington, DC, that says he’s one of three or four Democrats who won’t run for re-election,” Grassley said, noting that West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced earlier in the day that he would not run again.
“I’ve been hearing those things for a long time -- even the last couple of times (Harkin) ran for re-election,” he said.
He doubts Harkin’s decision to turn down the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee was a sign the 73-year-old Democrat is thinking of retiring.
More likely, it’s an indication that being Appropriations chairman in an era of no earmarks isn’t the plum job it once was, Grassley said.
He hasn’t been involved in discussions about who might challenge Harkin, who also is raising money. In February, Harkin will again be raising funds with Lady Gaga.
Neither does he plan to recruit a candidate.
“I never beg people to run for office,” Grassley said. A key indication of whether someone will be a good candidate is if they want to run, not whether they can be talked into running.
That includes his grandson, Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, who some speculate is being groomed by the elder Grassley to succeed him.
“He and I have never had that discussion and he’s never told me that he wanted to run for the United States Senate,” Grassley said.
Iowa Press can be seen on IPTV at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 and noon Jan. 13, 8:30 a.m. on IPTV World and online at www.iptv.org.