Although the best endorsement is the one that comes at the ballot box, Sen. Joni Ernst said Monday the support of Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds helps define the “sharp contrast” between her and others seeking the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate nomination.
Five days before Ernst participates in a forum with four rivals for the nomination for an open Senate seat, she was proud to receive Reynolds’ endorsement, saying it “will just continue the momentum of the campaign.”
Ernst, a second-term senator from Red Oak, is one of a handful of Republicans seeking the party’s nomination to face presumptive Democratic candidate 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin.
Five of the candidates will participate in a forum hosted by the Republican Party of Johnson County’s fall barbecue Oct. 12 at Clear Creek Amana High School at Tiffin. For more, visit www.jcrepublicans.org.
Then Oct. 23, they will debate at 7 p.m. at the Scheslow Auditorium at Drake University. For more, visit www.americansforprosperity.org.
Although the candidates made joint appearances over the summer, Ernst believes the forums nearly eight months before the June 2014 GOP primary will help Republicans determine the best nominee.
While they agree on many issues and sound many of the same themes as they talk to GOP activists, Ernst said Reynolds’ endorsement and the forums will help voters “find that sharp contrast, to see who is going to paint that contrast to Bruce Braley.”
That’s one reason Reynolds is lending her name and promised to “work tirelessly on behalf of Joni’s interest.”
“I think she’s the best contrast to Rep. Braley,” Reynolds said. “I think she’s uniquely qualified. She’s has a very diverse background and a very strong and compelling story.”
Ernst and Reynolds have a history. Reynolds recruited Ernst to run for Montgomery County auditor when she came back from Kuwait and Iraq where she was on active duty as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard. Then she recruited Ernst to run for her Senate seat when she was elected lieutenant governor.
“To have somebody stand up and say, ‘I know Joni Ernst, I know her work ethic, I know she’s going to work for her constituents,’ to me, it means a lot,” Ernst said at a news event at Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids.
Some people may dismiss the endorsement as a case of women sticking together, Reynolds and Ernst insisted there’s more to it.
“Why wouldn’t I take advantage of the opportunity not only to send a knowledgeable leader to represent us in Washington, but also the opportunity to make history,” Reynolds said. “She can be a great role model and inspiration to young women.
“We get two for the price of one when Joni is elected … a strong advocate and a great role model,” she said.
Before Ernst and Reynolds announced the endorsement in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Gov. Terry Branstad downplayed the impact of endorsements.
“I’m realistic enough to know that the only endorsement that really counts is that of the voters on Election Day,” Branstad told his weekly news conference, noting he intended to stay neutral in the GOP primary.
While “that’s the most important endorsement,” Ernst said, Reynolds’ testimonial is meaningful.
“You don’t endorse somebody, you don’t support somebody unless you believe in them,” she said.
Despite Reynolds’ description of Ernst as representing the “best of the Republican Party,” The Iowa Democratic Party said the best the GOP “has to offer these days is a Tea Party-driven shutdown of the federal government – a shutdown that Joni Ernst has pledged to support.”
Des Moines Bureau reporter Rod Boshart contributed to this post