Government

Joni Ernst expects tough U.S. Senate reelection battle

So far, five Democrats are vying for a chance at the seat

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, wheels a cart of binders Monday into the Iowa Secretary of State's office in
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, wheels a cart of binders Monday into the Iowa Secretary of State’s office in Des Moines. Petitions in the binders bear the signatures of nearly 24,000 Iowans who support her nomination as a candidate for reelection in the 2020 GOP primary on June 2. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said Monday she expects a tough reelection challenge but believes she has a strong record bolstered by the fact she will share the ballot with Republican President Donald Trump for this November’s general election in Iowa.

“I think President Trump is going to win Iowa quite handily again and I hope that helps all of our down-ticket races for all these great Republicans that are running,” said Ernst, who was flanked by supporters and volunteers who helped her gather nearly 24,000 signatures on nominating petitions to qualify for the June GOP primary.

“I don’t know if that’s a record, but I’m willing to guess that this is one of the largest number of signatures turned in for a statewide office,” said Ernst, who held a brief Statehouse rally before pushing a cart holding the 10 large binders of signatures to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office one week after the filing period opened. She said the signatures were a sign of her organization’s grassroots strength.

“It just clearly states how excited people are about holding this seat in the U.S. Senate,” she said.

Ernst, 49, a former military officer and state senator, has served as Iowa’s junior U.S. senator since she defeated Democrat Bruce Braley in 2014. Another Republican, Paul Rieck of northeast Iowa’s Garber, also has filed to run in the GOP primary but federal records do not show he has disclosed any campaign fundraising. Currently, there are five Democrats officially running in the June 2 primary race for the seat.

Joni Ernst turns in 23,182 signatures

“I am hoping that the Iowa people will give me six more years to continue those efforts and really make a difference for our taxpayers,” Ernst said in making her reelection bid official by getting her name on the primary ballot.

Ernst won her first bid on a campaign to “make ‘em squeal in Washington” and she said that theme will continue again in 2020 as she battles government waste and abuse that she said she fears will be exacerbated by a leftward drift in the opposition Democratic Party.

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“We understand the forces that are pushing against us and what we have seen — and you can see it at the top of the ticket in the presidential race — we do have radical socialists marching across the state of Iowa and across these great United States,” Ernst told her supporters.

“That’s not how our country was founded,” she said, “that’s not what we stand for here in the United States of America and it just shows that people are pushing back against that kind of liberal elitist movement.”

Ernst, a Red Oak native who served as Montgomery County auditor and a state senator from 2011 to 2014, made one guarantee Monday — that she would outwork her opponent regardless which Democrat prevails in the primary.

The retired Iowa National Guard lieutenant colonel said she expected Trump would be back in Iowa to campaign as a follow-up to his pre-caucus appearance in Des Moines and she believed Republicans will be bolstered by the economy.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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