Joni Ernst

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Joni Ernst
Joni Ernst - Official Portrait - 84th GA.jpg
Member of the Iowa Senate
from the 12th district
Assumed office
January 5, 2011
Preceded by Kim Reynolds
Personal details
Born (1970-07-01) July 1, 1970 (age 44)
Red Oak, Iowa, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Gail Ernst
Alma mater Iowa State University
Columbus State University
Religion Christianity
Website Campaign website

Joni Ernst (born July 1, 1970, Red Oak, Iowa) is an American politician who serves as a Republican member of the Iowa Senate and as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. She is the GOP nominee for the United States Senate from Iowa in the 2014 midterms election.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Before being elected to the Iowa Senate, Ernst was elected the Montgomery County Auditor in 2004 and re-elected in 2008.[2]

Ernst was elected to the State Senate in a special election in 2011 and re-elected in 2012. She represents District 12, which serves the southwest part of the state.[3][4][5][6] In the Iowa Senate, Ernst is a ranking member of the Education Standing Committee, and also serves on the Veteran Affairs, Appropriations, Rules & Administration and Human Resources Standing Committees. Ernst is also a member of the Administration & Regulation Budget Subcommittee.

Ernst has served a combined 21 years in the United States Army Reserves and the Iowa Army National Guard. She spent 14 months mobilized and overseas in Kuwait from 2003-2004 as a company commander at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.[3][4] Her unit was responsible for running logistical convoys in Kuwait and into southern Iraq. A Lieutenant Colonel, Ernst currently commands the largest battalion in the Iowa Army National Guard.

Political positions[edit]

During the 2013 legislative session, Ernst worked on legislation which reduced property taxes in Iowa.[7] She has also received an A rating from the National Rifle Association for her support of gun-rights issues.[8]

In a May 2014 interview with The Des Moines Register, Ernst expressed her support for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, a reduction in entitlements and discretionary spending, replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with "free market alternatives", a "fairer, flatter, and simpler" tax code and for allowing law-abiding citizens to "freely carry" weapons, and expressed her opposition to cap-and-trade and federal involvement in education.[9]

Regarding the Iraq War and weapons of mass destruction, Ernst stated: "We don't know that there were weapons on the ground when we went in, however, I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That was the intelligence that was operated on. I have reason to believe there was weapons of mass destruction. My husband served in Saudi Arabia as an Army Central Command sergeant major for a year and that's a hot-button topic in that area."[9] After criticism from Iowa Democrats and some commentators,[10][11][12] Ernst then issued a clarifying statement in which she stated that she did not mean to suggest that Iraq had WMD at the time of invasion, but rather that Iraq had had WMDs in their past which they used, and that her point was that "we don't know exactly what happened to those weapons".[13]

In a Republican primary debate in May 2014, Ernst said she would have voted against the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill, stated her view that the Clean Water Act is damaging for business, expressed her support for private Social Security accounts for young workers, and said that she opposed a federal minimum wage and that the minimum wage should be set at the state level.[14] Ernst said she believes same-sex marriage is "a state issue" and pointed out that she had co-sponsored a bill to amend the state constitution in the Iowa Senate to prohibit same-sex marriage.[14]

2014 U.S. Senate election[edit]

In July 2013, Ernst announced that she would seek the Senate seat held by retiring Democratic Senator Tom Harkin. If elected, she would be the first woman from Iowa elected to either house of Congress.[15][16]

Ernst received the endorsement of Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds in October 2013.[17] She has also been endorsed by 23 current and former state legislators.[18] In March the Ernst campaign was endorsed by Mitt Romney, a former Governor of Massachusetts and then by Sarah Palin, a former Governor of Alaska.[19] In May 2014, Ernst was endorsed by the US Chamber of Commerce.[20][14][21][22][23][24]

Ernst received widespread attention for a campaign advert she released in March 2014 where she employed a tongue-in-cheek comparison between her experience castrating pigs and her ability to cut "pork" in Congress.[25][26] Many found the ad to be humorous[27][28] and it was spoofed by late-night comedians including Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert,[29][30] but some found it to be in bad taste.[31][10] Before the ad aired, Ernst had struggled in fundraising,[32][33] and two polls of the Republican primary taken in February 2014 had shown her in second place, several points behind opponent Mark Jacobs.[34][35] After it aired, a Suffolk University poll in early April showed her with a narrow lead and a Loras College poll showed her essentially tied with Jacobs.[36][37][38][10] By May, she was being described by the media as the "strong front-runner".[14]

In an interview with the Des Moines Register on May 9, 2014, Ernst said she was "extremely offended" by comments made by Republican opponent Mark Jacobs in which she was characterized as AWOL due to missing over 100 votes in the legislative session ending April 7, 2014. Ernst stated: "That term is very degrading in the military. I have never been AWOL".[9] Previously, in an article in The Gazette, Ernst cited her National Guard duty to rebuff criticism about her missing votes,[39] but The Gazette found that only 12 of the 117 missed votes came on days when she was on duty. The other 105 missed votes represented 57 percent of the Iowa Senate votes that session. Ernst's spokesman said that she has had a better than 90 percent voting record during her career in the Senate and that she has not claimed guard service was the only reason she's missed votes this session.[40][41]

Personal life[edit]

Born and raised in Montgomery County, Iowa, Ernst resides in Red Oak, Iowa with her husband of 21 years, Gail, a Command Sergeant Major in the Army Rangers (retired) and their three daughters.[6]

Ernst is a member of the Montgomery County Republican Women, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2265 (Life Member), Montgomery County Court of Honor, Altrusa, PEO Chapter HB, National Rifle Association (Lifetime Member) and the Montgomery County Farm Bureau.[6] She is a member of the Mamrelund Lutheran Church (ELCA) of Stanton, Iowa.[6]

Ernst is a graduate of Iowa State University and earned a Master's in Public Administration from Columbus College.[6]


  1. ^ "Joni Ernst wins Iowa GOP U.S. Senate race". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Iowa GOP lawmaker Joni Ernst enters 2014 Senate race". July 10, 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "The Iowa Legislature: Senator Joni Ernst". Retrieved May 6, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Joni Ernst: Iowa Senate". Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Senator Joni Ernst (IA)". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e ABOUT JONI, Joni Ernst for Iowa
  7. ^ "Ernst, Payton speak at local GOP meeting". Newton Daily News. November 27, 2013. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Sirens sound across Iowa as Sarah Palin endorses Joni Ernst". The Des Moines Register. March 26, 2014. Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c "Joni Ernst: I was 'extremely offended' by AWOL attack". Des Moines Register. May 9, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c "How Joni Ernst’s ad about ‘castrating hogs’ transformed Iowa’s U.S. Senate race". The Washington Post. May 12, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2014. 
  11. ^ David Weigel (May 12, 2014). "The Iowa Republican Senator-to-Be Who Thinks Iraq Had WMD". Slate. Retrieved May 14, 2014. 
  12. ^ Cameron Joseph (May 12, 2014). "Iowa Republican still believes Iraq had WMDs". The Hill. Retrieved May 14, 2014. 
  13. ^ Jennifer Jacobs (May 13, 2014). "Ernst seeks to clarify remark on Iraq WMDs". Des Moines Register. Retrieved May 15, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c d James Hohmann (May 29, 2014). "Joni Ernst focused on primary in final Iowa debate". Politico. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  15. ^ Hayley, Bruce (18 July 2013). "State Sen. Joni Ernst announces run for U.S. Senate in Cedar Rapids". The Gazette. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  16. ^ Fish, Sandra (7/1/14). "Joni Ernst may make history as first Iowa woman to go to Congress". Aljazeera America. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  17. ^ Henderson, O. Kay (7 October 2013). "Lieutenant Governor Reynolds endorses Ernst in U.S. Senate race". Radio Iowa. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  18. ^ Endorsement, Joni Ernst for Iowa
  19. ^ Joseph, Cameron. Palin endorses Joni Ernst in Iowa Senate race, Politico, March 26, 2014.
  20. ^ "National business group picks Joni Ernst over GOP rivals in Iowa U.S. Senate race". Des Moines Register. May 13, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Joni Ernst Keeps Up Momentum With Ad Support From Chamber of Commerce". Huffington Post. May 27, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  22. ^ "The magic number for the Republican Party on Tuesday is 35 percent. And Joni Ernst is right there". Washington Post. June 2, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  23. ^ "GOP candidate with both grassroots and establishment backing". CNN. May 27, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Chamber ads aid momentum for Iowa GOP’s Joni Ernst". Washington Post. May 27, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Iowa Senate Candidate Says Castration Gives Her Conservative Cred". Time. March 25, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  26. ^ "In Politics, Hog Castration Cuts Through The Ad Clutter". NPR. March 28, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Iowa Senate Candidate Says Castration Gives Her Conservative Cred". Time. March 25, 2014. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  28. ^ "How did John Boehner's opponent get his campaign ad to go viral? Humor. (+video)". Christian Science Monitor. April 15, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Jimmy Fallon cringes at Joni Ernst's hog-castration ad". Des Moines Register. March 25, 2014. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Colbert: I'm pulling for Joni Ernst 'whole hog, or whatever's left'". Des Moines Register. March 27, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Joni Ernst 'Castrating Hogs' Ad: Republican Iowa Senate Candidate Stirs Controversy With Offbeat Campaign Spot [VIDEO]". International Business Times. March 25, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Sarah Palin endorses "hog castrator" Jodi Ernst in Iowa Senate race". CBS News. March 26, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Fix’s fourth-quarter fundraising winners and losers". CBS News. February 3, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Sarah Palin endorses ‘pork-cutting’ Joni Ernst in Iowa". Politico. March 26, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Ernst Aims to Be Iowa's First Female Senator". RealClearPolitics. March 9, 2014. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  36. ^ "Ernst Narrowly Leads GOP Field in Iowa Senate Race". RealClearPolitics. April 9, 2014. Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Poll: Joni Ernst Takes Lead in Iowa GOP Senate Primary". Weekly Standard. April 9, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Jacobs, Ernst tied in inaugural Loras Poll". TH Online. April 14, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  39. ^ "Few of Ernst’s missed Iowa Senate votes due to National Guard Duty". The Gazette. April 14, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  40. ^ "Iowa Sen. Ernst juggles busy schedule with Senate work". The Gazette. April 1, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  41. ^ "Few of Ernst’s missed Iowa Senate votes due to National Guard Duty". The Gazette. April 14, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Christopher Reed
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Iowa
(Class 2)

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