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October 8th, 2013

Breaking Down the Impact of Reynolds’ Endorsement of Ernst

For the first time in the Branstad-Reynolds administration, the governor and lieutenant governor are not co-endorsing the same candidate. Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds announced on Monday she is throwing her full support behind Joni Ernst in the Republican primary for Iowa’s soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat. Governor Branstad is remaining neutral in the primary, at least publicly.

“I’m an independent person,” Reynolds told “I am supporting Joni, not only by putting my name behind her, but I am going to work to help get her elected because I believe that she is our best opportunity to beat Bruce Braley in the election and really serve as an ally to Senator Grassley in the United States Senate.”

It is common knowledge that Governor Branstad thinks highly of Joni Ernst and believes it is good for Republicans to have strong women on the ticket. Iowa has never elected a woman to federal office and Branstad would relish getting there before the Democrats.

However, it is a political calculation for the governor to not invest his political capital in an important primary race that already has five GOP candidates and at least a few more considering an entry into the race. Especially when Branstad is also on the ballot in 2014.

There is also a rare divergence of views among Branstad’s inner circle regarding the U.S. Senate race. While Lt. Governor Reynolds is solidly behind Joni Ernst, “exploratory” candidate Mark Jacobs has the backing of Charise Schwarm, and presumably her husband Rich, as well. Rich Schwarm is a longtime friend, business partner and close advisor of Branstad’s.

Joni Ernst has collected the early endorsements of several GOP legislators and well-known activists. Reynolds’ backing is the most significant one in this race so far, for any candidate. Naturally, Joni Ernst is thrilled to have the support of her longtime friend.

“It is important because we have worked together over a number of years,” Ernst said. “She is someone that has seen me develop through county leadership, as well as in state government. She is in a unique position to observe how I interact with not only my own party in the senate and the house, but also members across the aisle in the senate and the house. We have been able to accomplish a number of wonderful things here in the state. So, I am so glad that I received her endorsement here today.”

Branstad and Reynolds remained neutral in the 2012 Iowa Caucus. However, they got involved in several legislative candidates during the 2012 cycle, offering joint endorsements. The electoral results were a mixed bag.

Reynolds’ endorsement can help Ernst. However, without the backing of the entire Branstad machine behind her, how much help Ernst will receive remains to be seen. Branstad’s endorsement would have meant significant financial support for Ernst from Iowa’s most deep-pocketed Republican backers. Kim Reynolds will not necessarily be able to deliver that. However, her energy, likability and status are definite positives in a campaign.

Reynolds has played a significant role in Joni Ernst’s political career. While Ernst was serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a company commander, Reynolds called her fellow southwest Iowa native for a different mission: running for Montgomery County auditor. Ernst accepted the task. She was elected in 2004 and reelected in 2008.

Seven years later, after becoming Iowa’s lieutenant governor, Kim Reynolds’ Iowa Senate seat became vacant. Once again, she recruited Ernst. Once again, Ernst won.

Earlier this year, when Reynolds decided not to run for the U.S. Senate, she dialed her longtime friend one more time. Now, she is throwing her full support behind Ernst’s campaign in what is sure to become a hotly contested race.

“I believe that she has the best background,” Reynolds said. “Not only has she led troops in combat, but she knows how to reach across the aisle and work with people to get things done. So, she’s a proven leader, not only by serving her state and nation as a veteran, but also as a leader in local government and state government.  She’s been a consistent problem solver, really having a tremendous impact in every area that she has served. She’s a great contrast to a trial attorney politician. Joni is a leader with a proven reputation of getting things done.”

Photo by Dave Davidson,

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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