DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday that she would not run for U.S. Senate in 2014, saying she is prepared to seek statewide office on her own but is not finished with the work she set out to accomplish with Gov. Terry Branstad.
The Republican Reynolds, who had been courted by the GOP's national Senate campaign organization, dismissed remarks that she was not ready to step out from behind Branstad, Iowa's longest-serving governor.
“I'm ready to step out. I'm just not ready to leave what I'm doing,” Reynolds told the Associated Press. “I'm not ready to walk away from the things I've not finished yet.”
Those things include Branstad's immediate legislative goals of reducing commercial property taxes and revamping the state's teacher pay structure. They also include longer-term goals such as creating 200,000 jobs by 2015.
Reynolds' decision to forgo a Senate campaign keeps the Republican column in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Harkin empty nearly three months after the Democrat announced his plans to retire.
Reynolds, 53, began weighing a Senate bid in February, after Republican Rep. Tom Latham announced that he would not seek Harkin's seat. Harkin, first elected in 1984, announced on Jan. 26 that he would not seek a sixth term.
A Branstad protege, Reynolds said she likes the role that the governor has allowed her to assume, promoting science and technology education and leading trade efforts at home and abroad. She also said she prefers staying in closer touch with Iowans than a six-year Senate term would allow, although she stopped short of saying she sees herself seeking the governorship after Branstad.
“There is just a connection with what I'm doing right now. That was one of the things I had to consider when I was looking at the U.S. Senate: Can you be as effective as you can in a state role?” Reynolds said, quickly adding, “I don't know what my future holds for sure.”
Branstad had publicly touted Reynolds as a potential Senate candidate after unsuccessfully urging Latham, Iowa's senior House member, to run.
Rep. Steve King, an outspoken conservative, is also weighing a Republican bid for Senate, but in recent weeks he has not projected the fire of a candidate hot to run.
“When the decision is made, I will be the happiest guy about this whether it's yes or no,” King said during an interview Tuesday in Sioux City.
A decision by the veteran congressman from GOP-heavy western Iowa to forgo a Senate campaign next year would most likely throw the Republican nomination open to a primary slate of lesser-known candidates.
King had said that he expected to decide in April. Aides to the congressman said Tuesday that Reynolds' decision would not affect his choice.
Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo, his party's only candidate for the seat, declared his Senate candidacy in February.
Democratic Party officials have coalesced around Braley, whom Harkin endorsed Saturday and who reported raising more than $1 million toward his Senate campaign in February and March.