US Senate

January 7th, 2015

Ernst’s ‘Iowa Way’ Arrives on Capitol Hill

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Written by: Kevin Hall
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Joni Ernst is under no illusions regarding the dysfunctional mess that exists in Washington, D.C. She knows her voice is just one out of 535. However, Joni Ernst also knows about overcoming obstacles and doing things no one else has done. She enters Congress with unwavering optimism that things can change and that she can help bring about that change.

“Many of you have heard me say throughout the campaign that it is a long way from Red Oak to Washington, D.C. and, wow, I am here now and I am excited to bring a little bit of Iowa to Washington, D.C.,” Ernst said.

Iowa’s newly elected U.S. Senator took the oath of office in the Capitol Tuesday to officially become a member of Congress. Ernst was accompanied by the man who will serve as her mentor, Chuck Grassley, and the man she is replacing, Tom Harkin. Ernst specifically requested that Grassley and Harkin join her for the swearing in ceremony.

The choice of Harkin might be a little puzzling to some, since they are ideological opposites and he had made sexist comments regarding Ernst’s appearance in the final days of the campaign. However, Senator Ernst wanted to send an immediate message.

“What I am showing Iowa is that I can be the better person and I do believe in working with others,” Ernst said. “And it’s a signal to the colleagues across the aisle that we are not going to agree with every item out there, but I do think we can find those areas that we do agree on and I certainly would to work with them on those areas.”

Ernst cited the Keystone Pipeline, tax reform and the federal budget as three specific topics where a bipartisan agreement could be reached.

“There really is no limit to what we can accomplish by working together,” Ernst optimistically chimed.

However, she might find some of that optimism quickly dampened. The first bill the new Congress put forth approves construction of the Keystone Pipeline. President Obama immediately vowed to veto the bill, despite bipartisan support for it.

There will be many setbacks and frustrations for Joni Ernst as she tries to change the way Washington works. Many newly elected senators and representatives have entered the Capitol with similar optimism and ambitions. Some have quickly fallen into a trap of bitterness and disenchantment. Instead of changing Washington, Washington changed them.

Senator Joni Ernst believes there is a different way. “The Iowa way.” She talked about it at every campaign event, GOP fundraiser and senatorial debate during the general election campaign. However, the Iowa way is more than just a campaign slogan for Ernst. It is a methodology that she believes in and intends to use on Capitol Hill.

“What the Iowa way means to me is really working with our neighbors and finding solutions to many of the problems that are facing our nation and rather than resorting to politics as usual that a lot of our constituents and Americans have come to expect from Washington, D.C.,” she said.

The farm girl from Red Oak who used to castrate hogs on the family farm is indeed a long way from home. Of course, this is not her first voyage away from southwest Iowa. She has also been in the war zones in Iraq, commanding the Iowa National Guard’s largest battalion.

Ernst notes that it has been a remarkable journey and there is no denying that. She is the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate. That is a distinction she carries with pride, but still hides that pride with a humility befitting her small town upbringing.

The sincerity is apparent when Joni Ernst says she is truly humbled and honored to be there. She should be. She has made history. No one, including Joni Ernst, could have predicted two years ago that this would be the path her life would take or that Iowans would take.

It took an incredible chain of circumstances to bring Joni Ernst to this moment and to bring the state of Iowa across this historical boundary. Joni Ernst is the first Iowa female elected to Congress.

That was not an achievement she concentrated heavily on. Ernst never brought it up it on the campaign trail. She did not even focus on it privately. It wasn’t until Election Night, when Ernst’s daughter Jenny and granddaughter Maddie helped the newly elected senator grasp the significance of accomplishment.

“She said, ‘You are going to set such a great example and some day Maddie is going to be reading the history books about you.’ That’s when it really hit me,” Ernst recalled.

Joni Ernst hopes her success will spur other Iowa women to enter the political realm. The glass ceiling has been removed. The shards have crumpled under her National Guard combat boots. The path forward is easier for those ambitious Iowa females who hope to follow Joni Ernst to Capitol Hill. She just hopes they remember to bring the Iowa way with them.

“What I want to make clear to everyone is that I am here to work for Iowans,” Ernst says. “I will do that and we will craft and implement real solutions as we chart a new path forward for not only Iowa but the nation as well.”

Photo and video courtesy of WHO-TV

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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