Ernst back in Greene County to fire up faithful
By ANDREW McGINN
During an election season in which political operatives have carpet-bombed the state’s airwaves, it’s telling that Joni Ernst now can’t wait for Nov. 5, either.
“I don’t watch TV anymore,” the Republican state senator vying for Tom Harkin’s open U.S. Senate seat confessed Monday, sitting in her campaign’s RV parked outside the Jefferson Pizza Ranch.
“And my husband and daughter don’t watch TV anymore,” she added.
A 99-county tour in the final days before the Nov. 4 election brought Ernst back to Greene County to greet about 50 supporters at the Pizza Ranch.
Ernst, R-Red Oak, was last in town in early September, when she made a last-minute stop at the Greene County GOP’s annual fundraiser.
Her high-profile, high-dollar race against Democratic Waterloo Congressman Bruce Braley — a win by Ernst could give Republicans control of the Senate — has Ernst getting the rock star treatment from Republicans everywhere she goes.
“I am humbled,” she explained afterward aboard the kind of RV fit for Taylor Swift. “When I was a little girl, I never would’ve imagined.”
A small-town farm kid now in the big league of American politics, Democrats have alternately tried to portray her as something of a Manchurian candidate for the billionaire Koch brothers’ special interests — a Koch sister, if you will.
“My campaign funds don’t allow me to have a bus like that,” quipped Dawn Rudolph, the Republican county supervisor seeking re-election this fall against Democrat Kevin Fitzpatrick Sr. and independent Shane Olson.
It almost seemed like an afterthought Monday that Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and state Rep. Chip Baltimore, all seeking re-election themselves, also were on hand at the Pizza Ranch — basically to just provide one long introduction of Ernst.
With Ernst in the U.S. Senate, “we’ll finally get this country going in the right direction again,” Reynolds said.
The state of Iowa, they all said, is already on the right path with record employment.
Besides, with Branstad enjoying a double-digit lead in the polls over state Sen. Jack Hatch, re-election is pretty much a foregone conclusion for one of the nation’s longest-serving governors.
It’s Capitol Hill that’s now in need of some Hawkeye State GOP mojo.
“That’s what I’m running on,” Ernst told supporters Monday, “our Iowa way, our Iowa values.”
“The Iowa way is to address the problem head on,” she later said.
Iowa has a balanced budget, Ernst argued Monday, but in Washington, Congressman Braley has voted repeatedly to increase the federal debt limit.
A farm girl who learned “the value of a dollar” growing up, Ernst also called Braley’s support of the EPA, even against the wishes of Iowa farmers, “reprehensible.”
If elected, she wants to roll back “job-killing rules and regulations.”
“I will always side with our farmers,” she said, “because they’re phenomenal conservationists.”
The environment will be protected, she argued, but should be left to local and state control.
Afterward, Ernst told the media she also doesn’t see a role for the federal government in education, either.
A poll released last week by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut showed the race between Ernst and Braley as too close to call, with 47 percent support for Ernst and 45 percent support for Braley.
Braley has yet to make an appearance in Greene County. County Democrats have reached out to Braley, without luck.
Ruth Consier, who lives north of Churdan, said she shares Ernst’s farm background and likes the Red Oak Republican because she’s “real down to Earth.”
James O. Andrew, a Greene County ag-businessman and a close friend of Branstad’s, said he’s impressed with Ernst as a candidate.
Above all, though, he feels strongly that she doesn’t play political games.
“I think the woman is honest,” Andrew said, “and that’s what appeals to me.”
Monday’s event was barely finished when the Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement accusing Ernst of standing with “millionaires and special interests, not Greene County families.”
“Iowans deserve to know that her plans on issues from Social Security and Medicare, to the minimum wage, to women’s health care, are wrong for Iowa families,” Democrats countered.
Ernst, they said, “has repeatedly called for the privatization of Social Security, which would gamble Iowan retirees’ savings on Wall Street.”