DES MOINES — Republican Chuck Grassley has formally declared his bid for reelection to the U.S. Senate, submitting more than 9000 petition signatures to qualify for the June Primary ballot. Surrounded by campaign staff and volunteers, Grassley gave a speech in the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, emphasizing his 40 year tenure in the Senate.

“It’s not about Chuck Grassley,” Grassley said. “It’s about serving the people of Iowa, about being the senior member of the United States Senate, to work for the people of Iowa in a stronger position.”

The most senior member of the U.S. Senate today is a Vermont Democrat who’s not seeking reelection. That means Grassley — who’s been a Senator since 1981 — would gain that top seniority spot next January if he’s reelected in November.

“Being chairman of the Judiciary Committee if we’re in the majority,” Grassley said. “Being the president pro tempore of the United States Senate if we’re in the majority.”

Grassley, who is 88 years old, is seeking an eighth six-year term. Abby Finkenauer of Cedar Rapids, one of the Democrats running for the U.S. Senate, frequently mentions Grassley’s long tenure in office and has pledged to exit the Senate after 12 years if she is elected in 2022 and reelected in 2028. Retired Admiral Mike Franken, western Iowa physician Glenn Hurst and veterans advocate Bob Krause have also announced they’re running for the Iowa Democratic Party’s U.S. Senate nomination.

Grassley, who spoke with reporters in the statehouse this morning, said the political environment is leaning in Republicans’ favor.

“If the election were held today, we’d take control of both the Senate and the House,” Grassley said. “Eight months ahead, to make sure that happens, is just to keep up the hard work.”

The key issues for the 2022 election aren’t going away, according to Grassley.

“Whether it’s Afghanistan, inflation, open borders, parental rights — you know, things of that nature, crime, energy policy — those things,” Grassley said. “I don’t want to say about the bad handling of Ukraine because I think it takes time to come to the conclusion of where we are there, but we probably know that the bad handling of Afghanistan probably emboldened people like Putin to do what he’s doing.”

This afternoon, Grassley plans to meet with a family from Ukraine who settled in Chariton to learn about the community’s efforts to send relief to Ukraine.