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Joni Ernst

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Joni Ernst
Joni Ernst updated.PNG
U.S. Senate, Iowa
In office
January 3, 2015 - Present
Term ends
January 3, 2021
Years in position 0
PredecessorTom Harkin (D)
Base salary$174,000/year
Elections and appointments
First electedNovember 4, 2014
Next generalNovember 2020
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Iowa State Senate District 12
2011-November 28, 2014
Bachelor'sIowa State University
Master'sColumbus College
Military service
Service/branchUnited States Army Reserves
Years of service2003-2004
ProfessionMontgomery County Auditor
Office website
Personal website
Joni Ernst is a Republican member of the United States Senate representing Iowa. When elected she was a member of the Iowa State Senate, until her resignation on November 29, 2014. A special election was held on December 30, 2014 to fill the vacancy.[1]

In the Iowa State Senate, she represented District 12; a position to which she was elected in a January 2011 special election. She also served as the Assistant Minority Leader of the Iowa State Senate.

Ernst ran for the open 2014 United States Senate seat in Iowa after incumbent Tom Harkin (D) announced his retirement. She defeated Bruce Braley (D), Douglas Butzier (L) and a host of independent candidates in the general election on November 4, 2014.[2] Ernst won her party's nomination to run for U.S. Senate in the June 3, 2014 primary.[3] Ernst became the first woman from Iowa elected to either house of Congress.

After her inauguration as Senator, Ernst was selected by John Boehner (R), the Speaker of the House, to deliver a rebuttal to President Barack Obama after his State of the Union Address. In her rebuttal, Ernst focused on the Republican agenda for the 114th Congress. Two of the major issues she brought up were approving the Keystone pipeline and repealing Obamacare. Ernst's rebuttal focused little on Obama's address and instead focused on GOP legislative priorities in both chambers.[4]


Born and raised in Montgomery County, Iowa, Ernst was valedictorian of her class at Stanton High School.[5] Ernst earned her B.S. from Iowa State University and her MPA from Columbus College. Her professional experience includes working as Montgomery County Auditor. She served in the U.S. Army Reserves and the Iowa National Guard for 21 years, earning the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa National Guard[6] and serving as Operations Branch Chief in Logistics for the Joint Forces Headquarters in Johnson, Iowa.

She spent 14 months mobilized and overseas in Kuwait from 2003-2004 as a company commander at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.[7] Ernst currently commands the largest battalion in the Iowa Army National Guard.[8][9]


Below is an abbreviated outline of Ernst's academic, professional and political career:[10]

  • 2015-present: U.S. Senator from Iowa
  • 2011-2014: Iowa State Senate, District 12
  • 2005-2011: Auditor of Montgomery County, Iowa
  • 2001-present: Lieutenant Colonel, Iowa National Guard
  • 1993-2001: Iowa Army National Guard
  • 1995: United States Army Reserves
  • 1992: Graduated from Columbus College (now Columbus State University), M.P.A.

Committee assignments

U.S. Senate


Ernst serves on the following Senate committees:[11]

Iowa State Senate


At the beginning of the 2013 state legislative session, Ernst served on the following committees:

Iowa Committee Assignments, 2013
Human Resources
Rules and Administration
Veterans Affairs


In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Ernst served on these committees:


Harassment in military

Ernst was sexually harassed during her more than 20 years spent in the military. "I had comments, passes, things like that," Ernst said. She shared this life experience during the campaign, in an article published in August 2014.[12]

Campaign themes


Ernst's campaign website listed the following issues:

Creating Jobs: Joni supports pro-growth tax and economic policies that will unleash the full potential of America’s free market economy and create new, better paying jobs so that more of our neighbors have jobs to go to each day in order to support their families. Joni believes the free market is the greatest job creating machine ever built, but only when the government gets out of the way. She supports rolling back Washington-created job-killing regulations that are crushing small business.

Real and Meaningful Health Care Reform: Joni is staunchly opposed to the Obamacare law. Joni supports immediate action to repeal Obamacare and replace it with common sense, free-market alternatives that put patients first, and health care decisions back in the hands of each of us rather than Washington bureaucrats.

Keeping America Strong in the World: Joni believes in a strong national defense because she knows the world is a safer place when America is the strongest nation on the planet. She believes that military readiness cannot be allowed to fall victim to Washington politics or bureaucratic maneuvering. Joni also believes that American foreign policy must be consistent and strong – never giving our enemies hesitation as to America’s resolve to defend herself and her interests across the globe, whether by diplomatic means or use of force.[13]


Ernst's 2011 special election Campaign site listed several key policy positions and campaign themes:

  • Eliminate Wasteful Spending
  • Create Jobs on Main Street
  • Reduce Property Taxes

Political positions

In 2007, Ernst took part in a successful lawsuit challenging the legality of the state's bilingual voter registration forms, which were in violation of Iowa's state law.[14][15]

During the 2013 legislative session, Ernst worked on legislation which reduced property taxes in Iowa.[16] She also received an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association for her support of gun-rights issues.[17]

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.[18]

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. Ernst said she believes same-sex marriage is "a state issue."[19]

Candidate forum

On December 14, 2010, Ernst and Ruth Smith (D) took part in an open forum sponsored by the Creston News Advertiser and KSIB.[20]



See also: United States Senate elections in Iowa, 2014

Ernst ran as a Republican candidate for the United States Senate in the 2014 elections in Iowa. Ernst officially announced her candidacy on July 10, 2013.[21] She won the nomination in the Republican primary on June 3, 2014.[3][22][21] She defeated Bruce Braley (D), Bob Quast (I), Rick Stewart (I), Ruth Smith (I) and the representatives of the deceased Douglas Butzier (Libertarian) in the general election on November 4, 2014.

U.S. Senate, Iowa General Election, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Bruce Braley 43.8% 494,370
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngJoni Ernst 52.1% 588,575
     Libertarian Douglas Butzier 0.7% 8,232
     Independent Rick Stewart 2.4% 26,815
     Independent Ruth Smith 0.4% 4,724
     Independent Bob Quast 0.5% 5,873
     Write-in Other 0.1% 1,111
Total Votes 1,129,700
Source: Iowa Secretary of State Official Results
U.S. Senate, Iowa Republican Primary, 2014
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngJoni Ernst 56.2% 88,535
Sam Clovis 18% 28,418
Mark Jacobs 16.8% 26,523
Matt Whitaker 7.5% 11,884
Scott Schaben 1.4% 2,233
Total Votes 157,593
Source: Iowa Secretary of State


  • Sarah Palin endorsed Ernst on March 26, 2014.[23]
    • In a Facebook post, Palin wrote: "If Nebraska’s Deb Fischer can see through the bull in Washington, then Iowa’s Joni Ernst can help her cut through the pork. Growing up on a hog farm in Southwest Iowa, Joni has taken her 'pork cutting' skills to the Iowa State Senate where she has been a champion for life, small government, and lower taxes – voting for the largest tax cut in Iowa history. In Washington, she has pledged to defund Obamacare, limit the size of government, and protect life. As a concealed weapon license holder, she will fight to defend our Second Amendment rights – the NRA has given her an A rating."[23]

Joni Ernst's March 2014 ad, "Squeal."
  • Mitt Romney endorsed Ernst in an email sent to his backers in Iowa on March 5, 2014.[24] In the email he wrote, "...Now, more than ever, we need someone who will demand fiscal responsibility in Washington and will put up a strong fight against Obamacare. Mother, soldier and proven conservative, Joni Ernst, is ready to do just that. Join our efforts by making a contribution to Joni’s campaign today. Any and every contribution will make a difference."[24]
  • Republican activist David Oman endorsed Ernst on March 3, 2014.[25]
  • On October 7, 2013, Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced her endorsement of Ernst for U.S. Senate.[26]
    • It was assumed that the endorsement would give Ernst some momentum in the competitive, multi-way race for the Republican nomination.[26]
    • “Joni Ernst represents the best of the Republican Party; she represents the best of Iowa,” Reynolds wrote in a guest opinion column in the Des Moines Register. “Joni does more than just talk about the policies and values she holds dear. She fights for them.”[26]
  • She has also been endorsed by 23 current and former state legislators.[27]

Missed Votes

During her campaign, Ernst often criticized Braley for missing votes and committee hearings in the U.S. House, specifically the Committee on Veteran Affairs. Ernst attacked Braley for missing meetings in favor of running his campaign bid for the Iowa Senate seat. Iowa state records have, however, shown that Ernst herself had missed committee meetings and votes within the state senate.

The most notable discrepancy was Ernst's appointment to the Mental Health and Disability Services Commission in January of 2013. Records showed that she had not attended 20 meetings since her original appointment. Ernst was also designated to the Iowa Council on Educator Development, but missed two council meetings in the fall and was no longer listed as a member of the organization by January. Furthermore, Ernst was appointed to the Governmental Public Health Advisory Council in 2011 but attendance records showed that she failed to be present at the 18 meetings.[28]

During the primary, Ernst was attacked by her challengers for her record of missing committee meetings and votes. The reemergence of this news can prove to have a distinct impact on Ernst's attack campaign against Braley. It could also leave room for Braley to counter against Ernst's claims.


Ernst released a 30-second ad on March 24, 2014, "Squeal." The ad began with Ernst saying, "I can castrate pigs so I am the perfect conservative for Iowa to send to the Senate."[29][30] She also said in the ad, "I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork. Washington’s full of big spenders. Let’s make ’em squeal.”[30]


See also: Iowa State Senate elections, 2012

Ernst ran for re-election to the Iowa State Senate in 2012. Due to redistricting, Ernst ran in District 12. Ernst ran unopposed in the Republican primary on June 5, 2012. No candidates filed to run in the Democratic primary. The general election took place on November 6, 2012.[31][32]


See also: State legislative special elections, 2011; Iowa state legislative special elections, 2011

Ernst defeated Ruth Smith (D) in the January 4, 2011 special election to Iowa State Senate District 48.[33] Ernst won with 67.4 percent of the vote.[34][35]

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Ernst is available dating back to 2011. Based on available campaign finance records, Ernst raised a total of $128,208 during that time period. This information was last updated on September 19, 2013.[36]

Joni Ernst's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Iowa State Senate, District 12 Won $55,847
2011 Iowa State Senate, District 48 Won $72,361
Grand Total Raised $128,208


Candidates for Congress were required to file up to seven main reports with the Federal Election Commission during the 2014 elections season. Below are Ernst's reports.[37]

Ernst raised $252,000 in her first fundraising quarter, according to reports released October 10, 2013.[43]

In a statement, Ernst said: ”I am incredibly thankful to those who have been so generous with their support over the last several weeks. Each and every contribution, no matter the amount, helps my campaign to continue to grow in momentum. I am excited to continue traveling the state and meeting with voters to share my vision of taking our shared Iowa values to Washington, D.C.”[43]


Ernst won re-election to the Iowa State Senate in 2012. During that election cycle, Ernst raised a total of $55,847.
Iowa State Senate 2012 election - Campaign Contributions
Top contributors to Joni Ernst's campaign in 2012
John Deere & Co$5,000
Associated General Contractors of Iowa$3,000
Iowa Association Of Electric Cooperatives$3,000
Iowa Corn Growers Association$2,000
Fastenau, Jeff$2,000
Total Raised in 2012$55,847
Source:Follow the Money


See also: State legislative scorecards and State legislative scorecards in Iowa

Legislative scorecards are used to evaluate elected public officials based on voting record. Some scorecards are created by political advocacy groups with a focus on specific issues, while others are developed by newspapers and are broad in scope. Scorecards are meant to be used as a tool for voters to have a quick picture of whether their views align with a particular legislator's record.

Because scorecards can be specific to particular issues or general to a state’s legislative term, for example, each report should be considered on its own merits. Each entity that publishes these reports uses different methodologies and definitions for the terms used.

An overview for scorecards in all 50 states can be found on this page. To contribute to the list of Iowa scorecards, email suggestions to

Please see our writing guidelines if you would like to add results from an individual scorecard to this legislator's profile.


In 2012, the 84th Iowa State Legislature was in session from January 9 to May 9.[44]

Legislators are scored on "their records on constitutional principles and civil liberties."
Legislators are scored on their votes on "key conservative issues."
Legislators are scored on their votes with or against SC's official position.


Ernst resides in Red Oak, Iowa with her husband, Gail, a Command Sergeant Major in the Army Rangers (retired) and their daughter, Libby.[45][46]

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.[46] She is a member of the Mamrelund Lutheran Church (ELCA) of Stanton, Iowa.[7]

Recent news

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Joni Ernst News Feed

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See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. Des Moines Register, "Ernst resigns Iowa Senate seat; election set for Dec. 30," accessed December 15, 2014
  2. Politico, "Senate Election Results," accessed November 12, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Associated Press, "Election Results," accessed June 3, 2014
  4. NBC News, "Ernst Focuses on GOP Priorities in State of the Union Response," January 21, 2015
  5. Iowa State,"Plaza of Heroines", accessed August 7, 2014
  6. ABC,"Hog-Castrating, Harley Davidson-Riding Joni Ernst Wins Iowa Senate Primary," June 3, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 Iowa Republican, "Joni Ernst Announces Bid for Kim Reynolds Iowa Senate Seat," November 18, 2010
  8. Des Moines Register,"Republican Joni Ernst joins U.S. Senate race," July 10, 2013
  9. Des Moines Register,"Ernst mobilizes to crash Washington's 'boys club," May 29, 2014
  10. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Joni Ernst," accessed January 21, 2015
  11. United States Senate, "Committee Assignments," accessed February 4, 2015
  12. Politico, "Joni Ernst: I was harassed in the military," accessed August 16, 2014
  13. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  14. U.S. English, "Opening Arguments in Iowa Official English Case Heard Today," December 21, 2007
  15. U.S. English Foundation, "Legal Defense," accessed April 8, 2014
  16. Newton Daily News, "Ernst, Payton speak at local GOP meeting," November 27, 2013
  17. Des Moines Register, "Sirens sound across Iowa as Sarah Palin endorses Joni Ernst," March 26, 2014
  18. Des Moines Register, "Joni Ernst: I was 'extremely offended' by AWOL attack," May 9, 2014
  19. Politico, "Joni Ernst focused on primary in final Iowa debate," May 29, 2014
  20. Creston News Advertiser, "Ernst, Smith focus on social, economic issues," December 15, 2010
  21. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ernst
  22. KMALand, "Ernst still undecided on Senate bid," May 23, 2013 (dead link)
  23. 23.0 23.1 Des Moines Register, "Sarah Palin endorses Joni Ernst in Iowa U.S. Senate race," accessed March 26, 2014
  24. 24.0 24.1 Des Moines Register, "In rare mailing, Romney backs Iowa’s Joni Ernst for U.S. Senate," accessed March 6, 2014
  25. Des Moines Register, "GOP’s David Oman endorses Joni Ernst for U.S. Senate," accessed March 3, 2014
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Des Moines Register, "Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds endorses Joni Ernst in U.S. Senate race," accessed October 7, 2013
  27. Joni Ernst, "Endorsements," accessed August 7, 2014
  28. Politico, "Joni Ernst missed votes, hearings, committee meetings," accessed October 9, 2014
  29. Time, "Iowa Senate Candidate Says Castration Gives Her Conservative Cred," accessed March 26, 2014
  30. 30.0 30.1 Des Moines Register, "Hog castration quip lands Joni Ernst on 'The Tonight Show' (with video)," accessed March 26, 2014
  31. Iowa Secretary of State, "Official Primary Results," accessed October 1, 2014
  32. Iowa Department of Elections, "2012 Primary Candidates," accessed April 17, 2012
  33. Iowa Secretary of State, "Official Iowa Candidate list," January 5, 2011
  34. Iowa Secretary of State, "Unofficial Election Results," January 5, 2011
  35. Des Moines Register, "Republican Ernst wins state Senate seat," January 5, 2011
  36., "Ernst, Joni K," accessed September 19, 2013
  37. Federal Election Commission, "Joni Ernst 2014 Summary reports," accessed November 12, 2013
  38. Federal Election Commission, "October Quarterly," accessed November 13, 2013
  39. Federal Election Commission, "Year End Report," accessed May 13, 2014
  40. Federal Election Commission, "April Quarterly," accessed May 13, 2014
  41. Federal Election Commission, "July Quarterly," accessed October 16, 2014
  42. Federal Election Commission, "October Quarterly," accessed October 20, 2014
  43. 43.0 43.1 Des Moines Register, "Ernst raises $252,000 for her U.S. Senate campaign," accessed October 11, 2013
  44. StateScape, "Session schedules," accessed August 2, 2014
  45. Daily Kos, "Does Joni Ernst Support Traditional Divorce?" June 16, 2014
  46. 46.0 46.1 Joni Ernst, "About Joni," accessed August 7, 2014
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Harkin (D)
United States Senate - Iowa
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Brian Schoenjahn (D)
Iowa State Senate District 12
Succeeded by
Mark Costello
Preceded by
Iowa State Senate District 48
Succeeded by
Dan Zumbach (R)