State Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, joined the race for U.S. Senate Wednesday, increasing the crowded field of Republicans who want to challenge likely Democratic nominee Bruce Braley.
“As a mother, soldier, and a conservative, the values I hold dear, and have fought more than 20 years to protect, are being threatened by the failed policies of this president,” Ernst said on her campaign website. “Washington has failed us. We need and deserve better leadership. And that’s why I am running for U.S. Senate.”
Gov. Terry Branstad has all but endorsed Ernst. He told Radio Iowa last month that the thinks the candidate should have state and local experience, singling out Ernst.
“We’ve never had a woman senator from Iowa,” Branstad said. “I think she’s a prospect that could do it.”
Ernst, 43, commands the largest battalion in the Iowa National Guard. She served for more than a year during the Iraq War in Kuwait. After working as Montgomery County Auditor, Ernst ran for the state senate after Kim Reynolds was elected lieutenant governor.
High-profile media consultant Todd Harris, who also works for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted that he joined Ernst’s campaign. She has also retained the services of David Polyansky of New Strategies Group.
Ernst has never faced a competitive election or raised a significant amount of money, so the campaign will test her mettle. Braley’s campaign says he has $2 million banked so far for the campaign.
David Young, the former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley, Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. Attorney, and Sam Clovis, an economics professor, have already entered the race. Businessman Mark Jacobs, Iowa GOP co-chair David Fischer and former state Rep. Rod Roberts are also expected to enter the race.
The Iowa Democratic Party immediately attacked Ernst, launching a nonsensical website called www.establishmentapproved.com. Citing no evidence, the website claims that Ernst is the choice of “National Republicans” trying to “silence the grassroots” and “ignor[e] the will of primary voters.” That’s pretty rich considering that Congressman Braley, the hand-picked replacement of Sen. Tom Harkin (with the full backing of the D.C. establishment), faces no primary opposition.
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