Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, won a 10th term in Congress by defeating Democrat Leonard Boswell. / Charlie Neibergall, AP
Veteran GOP Rep. Tom Latham told supporters Wednesday he will skip the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin.
The decision by Latham, who was elected to his 10th term in November, means conservative Rep. Steve King would have a clear shot at the Republican nomination if he decides to jump into the 2014 race.
"I cannot in good conscience launch a two-year statewide campaign that will detract from the commitment I made to the people who elected me, at a time when our nation desperately needs less campaigning and more leadership," Latham said in an e-mail to supporters.
The Iowa Senate race will be one of the closely watched contests next year, with both parties vying aggressively for the open seat. Democrats have 21 seats to defend, while Republicans will try to protect 14 seats.
King, who is studying the race, has denounced a new effort by GOP strategist Karl Rove to get involved in Republican primaries after the defeat of Missouri's Todd Akin and Indiana's Richard Mourdock. At one time, both Senate seats were viewed as winnable for the GOP, but Akin and Mourdock made controversial statements about rape and abortion that contributed to their defeat.
King is known outside of Iowa as a strong opponent of President Obama's health care law. He also has made controversial statements in the past, which prompted a Rove ally to say to The New York Times that King "has a Todd Akin problem." Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said recently that Latham "would be the strongest candidate" for the Senate.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Bruce Braley has announced he will run for the Senate. Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, proclaimed Latham's decision as good news for Braley.
"This is yet another potential candidate in a long line of Republicans who have decided not to face down the extremist elements within their own party," Cecil said in a statement. "Regardless of who runs on the Republican ticket, we are focused on supporting our great Democratic candidate."
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