Branstad: Ernst brings ‘straight shooter’ approach6/11/2014
Just days into her role as one of the more high-profile Republican candidates in the nation, Joni Ernst joined the top of the order for a statewide campaign swing.
Ernst, fresh off a commanding primary win for the U.S. Senate nomination in Iowa, earned plaudits from three of the state’s Republicans who stood with her at several events across Iowa, including one Friday in the Harold Bierl Room of the Carroll Chamber of Commerce.
“She’s a straight shooter, and I mean that literally,” said Gov. Terry Branstad.
Branstad, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, attorney general candidate Adam Gregg and Glidden Statehouse candidate Brian Best joined Ernst in the mid-afternoon rally with about 40 people, most of them local Republicans.
Branstad and King continued to advance Ernst’s biographical narrative as a state senator from Red Oak with conservative values, a farm girl who went on to be a county auditor with service in the Iowa Army National Guard, a lieutenant colonel who helped run convoys from Kuwait to Iraq in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“You know what it’s like growing up on a farm,” Branstad said. “You have to do lots of things. You know what I’m talking about.”
Ernst vaulted into national political relevance after airing ads in which she joked about hog castration experience being a useful resume line for budget-cutting in Washington, D.C.
“I actually thought you may lose some of the men’s vote there for a minute,” joked King.
Ernst captured 56 percent of the vote statewide in a five-way primary last Tuesday.
King went on to burnish what he said were some strong credentials for Ernst in a general-election race with Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley of Waterloo.
“This is a lady who covers the whole waterfront of what it is like to be an Iowan,” King said.
King said Ernst has earned Iowa’s respect as a military leader, someone who is willing to sacrifice for the nation.
“It broke my heart that Joni was missing 13 months of being a mom to serve our country,” King said. “That’s a measure of the sacrifice that always impressed me from the beginning.”
King used his remarks to challenge Braley’s rural bona fides, drawing applause for referencing Braley’s well-chronicled pitch to trial lawyers about control of the Senate. Braley, a Brooklyn, Iowa, attorney, said that U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is a farmer, not a lawyer, and that if the GOP wrests control of the Senate from the Democrats, Grassley may end up as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I am not a farmer,” King said. “I’m a ditch digger. And from the ditch, I look up to all farmers.”
Before being elected to the Iowa Senate, King in 1975 founded King Construction, a company that has been involved in a number of earth-moving projects in the region.
King said the optics of the videotaped Braley encounter with trial lawyers from Texas isn’t doing the Waterloo congressman any favors. Braley makes the remarks standing next to a collection of liquor bottles and cocktail glasses at the event.
“I’m all right with some of these vices, I have a few myself,” King said. “But I try to make it a practice not to step in front of a whole bar of whiskey bottles and then beat up on Chuck Grassley and farmers while I’m promising my representation to Texas trial lawyers. But that’s what he did.”
For her part, Ernst challenged Braley on his support of the Affordable Care Act and connection to the Democratic congressional leadership.
“He will vote with Nancy Pelosi nearly 100 percent of the time,” Ernst said. “Nancy Pelosi’s way is not the Iowa way.”
The National Journal’s 2013 vote rankings for the U.S. House list Pelosi, a California congresswoman, as the 66th “most liberal,” with Braley holding the 108th spot on that measure in the House.
“We all have one common goal and that is to defeat liberal Bruce Braley,” Ernst said. CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.