COUNCIL BLUFFS — Tom Vilsack would have made a “wonderful” U.S. senator, but he apparently is happy at his current position, which is influential, a local Democratic Party official says.
“As secretary of agriculture, he is the leader of all 50 governors in the area of agriculture,” said Linda Nelson, chairwoman of the Pottawattamie County Democrats. “He seems to like his job, and he wants to remain there. It is influential, and I honor his choice of staying on as secretary of agriculture.”
An aide for Vilsack, a Democrat, confirmed Friday that the former two-term Iowa governor won’t pursue the Senate seat that will open in 2014 by the retirement of Tom Harkin. Vilsack will instead focus on his Cabinet position, which he has held since the beginning of the Obama administration.
“It’s quite an honor for an Iowan to be in that position,” Nelson said.
The decision leaves Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo lawyer, as the only Democrat in the race. On the Republican side, Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham have said they’re weighing a potential bid.
Vilsack first entered politics in 1987 as mayor of Mount Pleasant. He was elected to the Iowa Senate in 1992. In 1998, when Terry Branstad chose not to seek re-election following 16 years as governor, Vilsack decided to seek that position and won the general election, becoming the first Democrat to serve as governor of Iowa in 30 years. He was re-elected four years later.
Deciding not to seek a third term, Vilsack in November 2006 became a candidate for the presidency but dropped out three months later due to financial constraints.
When Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008, he chose Vilsack for his top agricultural position and received U.S. Senate approval.