Former U.S. Senate Strom Thurmond spent 48 years as a United States Senator. It was a long, impressive feat for the South Carolina Democrat-turned-Republican.
Thurmond served in the U.S. Senate from 1954-2003. He also died in 2003 at the age of 100 years old.
Iowa’s senior senator, Sen. Chuck Grassley, is attempting to match Thurmond. Grassley announced last month he too would seek an eighth term in the United States Senate.
Grassley was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980. He served in Congress from 1975-1981 and was a member of the Iowa House from 1959-1975.
Grassley has spent 62 years, give or take, as an elected official in Iowa. Iowa has been a state for 175 years, give or take. Meaning Grassley has been an elected official in Iowa for about 35 percent of the time it has been a state.
And, with his announcement last month, it appears there is no end in sight for Grassley.
But it wasn’t likely always supposed to be this way. In 2002, Grassley was speaking at a celebration for Thurmond. During this celebration, Grassley said:
“I hope to continue serving on (the Judiciary) committee as long as I’m a member of the Senate, although of course I won’t serve as long as Senator Thurmond.”
Well, it appears Grassley didn’t mean that, because he is attempting to serve at least as long as Thurmond, who retired after his eighth term.
Or, perhaps, Grassley did mean it and plans to not finish his next term if re-elected.
Well, former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin has an idea. Harkin, who served in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, talked to The New York Times in 2017 about how difficult it is for some to return to life outside of D.C. after decades in the beltway.
“My gosh, you just think, move on and let someone else have a chance,” Harkin told the Times. “Get some younger people in there. But for some reason, they can’t imagine themselves not doing that.”
Harkin went to describe the Senate — and the “logistical and psychological” support it offers — as a “security blanket.”
“You have staff, you have an office, you have all the people to take care of you,” he said. “You have a regimen. You reach a certain comfort level with that and having people at your disposal and the power to call hearings and things. I think it does become addictive.”
Nearly 20 years ago, Grassley said with certainty he would not be in the U.S. Senate as long as Thurmond. But depending on how the 2022 election goes, he will be.
Should he win, Grassley will be 89 years old when his next term starts. He’ll be 95 years old when he finishes.
President Joe Biden is 10 years younger — YOUNGER — than Grassley. President Donald J. Trump was 12 years old when Grassley was first elected to the Iowa legislature.
It stands to reason that when Grassley said in 2002 he wouldn’t be in the Senate as long as Thurmond, he meant it.
But here we are. Staring at the possibility of an eighth term and a political career that spans seven decades.
Iowa and Iowans can be thankful for Grassley’s 60-plus years of service. But there is also something to be said for the things Harkin told The New York Times — and what Grassley himself said about not being in the Senate as long as Thurmond.
“Get a life, move on,” Harkin told The New York Times. “You can’t believe how much there is to life outside of there. You have to get rid of that security blanket.”
Grassley is putting the choice in the hands of Iowa voters rather than making it for himself. Iowans have options.
State Sen. Jim Carlin announced he was running for the U.S. Senate seat in early 2021. Democrats will contest for the seat as well.
If Grassley is the GOP nominee, then the race for Iowa Governor becomes crucial for the U.S. Senate race as well. Because if Grassley cannot finish out his term, the Governor will appoint someone to that seat.