As Radio Iowa reviews the top news and sports stories of 2013, here is our report on the year’s top political stories.
AUDIO of report, 3:00
In January, Senator Tom Harkin announced he would not seek reelection in 2014.
“It’s time for me to step aside,” Harkin told Radio Iowa in an interview moments after he announced his decision to the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee. “By my stepping aside, it cascades down, it opens up a lot of new opportunities for younger Iowans to move up.”
A half dozen Republican candidates are now campaigning for the U.S. Senate. The only Democrat running is Congressman Bruce Braley of Waterloo.
“There hasn’t been an open Senate race in Iowa since 1974,” Braley said in February during an interview with Radio Iowa to announce he was running.
In September, Senator Chuck Grassley announced he’ll run again — in 2016.
“I’m making plans, but it’s not taking much of my time,” Grassley said during an interview on Iowa Public Television.
Then, in December, Republican Congressman Tom Latham of Clive said he wouldn’t run for reelection next year.
“It’s a job I love,” Latham said, on IPTV, “but it’s the right time.”
In July, Republican Congressman Steve King of Kiron made a national splash with comments about immigration reform.
“I said for every valedictorian, you have a hundred 130-pound drug smugglers with calves the size of cantaloupes,” King told Radio Iowa in a telephone interview.
King said it’s a mathematical fact. House Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Republican, weighed in.
“There’s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials,” Boehner said during a news conference in Washington, D.C.
In October, State Senator Kent Sorenson of Milo resigned after a special investigator concluded Sorenson was likely paid to work for Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul — a violation of ethics rules which bar senators from being paid directly or indirectly by presidential campaigns. Senator Wally Horn of Cedar Rapids leads the Senate Ethics Committee.
“Iowa is squeaky clean, even though once in a while we have a problem,” Horn told Radio Iowa an hour after Sorenson resigned.
The 2013 Iowa legislature passed an education reform package and enacted what Senator Matt McCoy called “historic” commercial property tax reform.
“The Iowa legislature demonstrates today that compromise is not a dirty word,” McCoy said.
House GOP Leader Linda Upmeyer helped craft the new system to cover up to 150,000 low income Iowans who don’t have health insurance.
“I’m really pleased with the outcome. Everybody moved their position a little bit in order to do the right thing,” Upmeyer said on the final day of the 2013 Iowa legislative session.
This past spring, Governor Branstad was in the hot seat after his trooper was clocked “doing a hard 90” while driving the governor and lieutenant governor.
“I have never been stopped for speeding as governor,” Branstad said during one of his weekly news conferences. “I”ve been a passenger in the back seat.”
Branstad said he’s made it clear his troopers are to obey traffic laws. The DCI agent who called in the governor’s speeding SUV was fired. He’s appealing. A retired Supreme Court Chief Justice said Branstad’s fingerprints aren’t on that firing. Late this summer Branstad fired the state’s public safety commissioner and this fall he announced the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo would be closed after news surfaced the teenage girls at the home were being mistreated.
A dozen people who may run for president in 2016 visited Iowa in 2013.
“It’s amazing when you come and speak at the (Harkin) Steak Fry, a whole lot of people seem to take notice,” Biden said this past September in Indianola.