WASHINGTON -- Voters in Iowa elected Republican Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, making her the state's first woman senator.
Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, catapulted to stardom during the GOP primary with ads featuring her castrating hogs and pulling a handgun from her purse. The spots also helped Ernst win support from prominent Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The woman who branded herself a "mother, soldier, leader” convinced Republicans she was the party's best chance to turn red a Senate seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
While Ernst propelled herself to victory by painting herself as a Midwestern woman who grew up on a farm, Democrats pointed to questionable statements to claim she's a hard-right conservative, if not a conspiracy theorist.
While campaigning last November, Ernst backed a right-wing theory that the United Nations' sustainable development plan Agenda 21 is a conspiracy that would enable the government to strip Americans of their freedom and eliminate private property rights.
All of us agreed that Agenda 21 is a horrible idea. One of those implications to Americans, again, going back to what did it does do to the individual family here in the state of Iowa, and what I've seen, the implications that it has here is moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don't have property rights anymore. These are all things that the UN is behind, and it's bad for the United States and bad for families here in the state of Iowa.
States Can Nullify Federal Laws
At a forum held by Iowa's Faith & Freedom Coalition in July, Ernst suggested that states can somehow nullify laws passed by the federal government.
You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. senator, why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right ... we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the 10th Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators -- as senators or congressman -- that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.
WMDs In Iraq
Ernst told the Des Moines Register's editorial board in May that she believed there were weapons of mass destruction found during the United States' invasion of Iraq. From the Daily Beast:
"We don't know that there were weapons on the ground when we went in," she said, "however, I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." When a Register reporter quizzed her on what information she has, Ernst said, "My husband served in Saudi Arabia as the Army Central Command sergeant major for a year and that's a hot-button topic in that area."
Ernst later clarified those comments in a statement conceding that there were no WMDs in Iraq, although the country had used them before.
47 Percent Mentality
Audio recorded by Radio Iowa in 2013 revealed that Ernst, like many conservatives, holds a "makers vs. takers" view toward social welfare programs. But as Greg Sargent reported, her comments went further than former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent" video.
We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs ... we rely on government for absolutely everything. And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it. But we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything.
Climate Change Skeptic
While hardly unique among Republicans, Ernst has claimed she does not possess the scientific knowhow to weigh in on whether humans are causing climate change. But she did chalk it up to "cyclic changes in the weather" during an interview in May.
Yes, we do see climates change, but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made. I think we do have cyclic changes in weather, and I think that's been throughout the course of history. What impact is man-made. ... but I do think we can educate people to make good choices.
She Really Likes Her Gun
An ad featuring Ernst shooting at a target that is supposed to represent the federal government isn't the first time she has used such a stark metaphor. Speaking at a 2012 NRA event, Ernst said her firearm would help protect her if the government imposes on her rights.
I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.
Ernst also has suggested that President Barack Obama should be impeached, expressed openness to privatizing Social Security, called for abortion providers to be punished if a fetal personhood bill were passed, and opposed a federal minimum wage hike.