Iowa Senate race already generating big spending - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Senate race already generating big spending

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley

A rare opening for an Iowa Congressional seat is already driving big spending.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley announced he's raised over a million dollars towards his bid to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, who announced he won't run for re-election in 2014.

Braley is the only candidate to officially make a bid for Harkin's Senate seat, but lots of names are floating around of potential Republican contenders.

Regardless of who gets in the race, one thing seems certain: A lot of money will be spent trying to win this race.

"I think you're really talking -- when all is said and done -- a $20 million Senate race," said Chris Larimer, UNI political science professor and KWWL political analyst.

Larimer doesn't think Braley will have any Democratic contenders to force a primary election, but the Republican field appears wide open.

U.S. Rep. Steve King seems most interested in moving to U.S. Senator.

"I reached that point where I just need information," King, a Republican, said. "So, once that information comes in I think it will speed up the decision making process."

Bob Vander Plaats is thought to be another possible Republican candidate, and Gov. Terry Branstad's future could determine who else gets into the Senate race.

"If Branstad decides to run for re-election, that frees up Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds if she wants to pursue other options," said Larimer. "Or, if Branstad decides not to run, you'd expect Reynolds to step into the Governor's position. Then that would be one less Republican candidate for the Senate seat."

It won't be just the candidates shelling out big bucks to try to win the 2014 election. Special interest groups will try hard to influence what party controls Congress.

"It's going to be very competitive for Republicans," Larimer said. "They're going to use this as a way to maybe pick up some seats in the Senate. Right now they're down 55-45. So if they can pick up a seat or two around the country in a swing state like Iowa, they're going to put a lot of money into it."

This certainly could be an election that comes down to fundraising -- whoever has the most money in their campaign bank account might just come out a winner.

Experts think federal spending will be one of the biggest issues in the Senate campaign. Social issues like gay marriage and immigration could also drive spending by special interest and political action groups.

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