Joni Ernst Wins GOP Senate Primary In Iowa
Joni Ernst, a State Senator who received the backing from both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, was won the Republican Primary for the Iowa Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin at the end of the year:
Joni Ernst won Iowa’s five-way Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, clearing the 35 percent threshold necessary to avoid a convention nomination fight.
Ernst, a state senator who ran as “a mother, soldier and conservative” and spoke of castrating hogs in one of the year’s breakout ads, will face Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the fall election.
Both are vying to replace retiring liberal icon Tom Harkin. The result could be one of the year’s most expensive races and play a key role in determining whether Republicans capture the Senate.
In a statement released by her team after her win, the 43-year-old Ernst thanked her supporters and pivoted to slamming Braley, who she tagged as a “rubber stamp” for President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders.
“This campaign will come down to a very simple choice: our shared Iowa values, versus Bruce Braley’s liberal Washington values,” Ernst said.
According to the statement, Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard who served a tour in Iraq, will start a statewide tour on Wednesday alongside Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. She’s due to report for National Guard duty once that tour ends, the statement says without giving an exact timeframe.
Ernst opened a big early lead on Tuesday.
As returns came in, former energy CEO Mark Jacobs, who invested more than $3.1 million of his own money in the primary race and had been second in polls, was trailing radio host Sam Clovis, who had the support of social conservatives. Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker was in fourth place.
Ernst’s campaign spent around $1 million but also got sizable outside air cover from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Senate Conservatives Fund and others.
Afternoon thunderstorms sweeping east across the Hawkeye state helped keep turnout low on Tuesday.
Had Ernst not cleared the 35 percent threshold, a June 14 state GOP convention featuring some 2,000 party activists would have decided the nominee.
Ernst won backing from an eclectic coalition of Republicans. Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio each visited the Hawkeye State to stump for her.
Iowa has not been on most lists of those states that are considered to be in play in 2014. Nonetheless, there have been some indications that there might be an opening for the GOP here under the right circumstances, and most observers considered Ernst to be the candidate best situated to take advantage of any potential GOP wave. Recent polling shows her trailing Braley, but by a smaller margin than any of her other primary opponents were, so that conclusion seems to be justified. Whether she can turn this into a competitive race remains to be seen.