DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican Joni Ernst won reelection to her Iowa U.S. Senate seat Tuesday after an expensive and at times bruising race against Democrat Theresa Greenfield.
Voters gave another term to Ernst following a campaign that featured a blizzard of television ads and three heated televised debates. The two candidates had more than $170 million in spending on media as parties and interest groups poured money into the race, one of the costliest in the nation.
It was a more intense race than in 2014, when Ernst breezed into office with an 8-point victory thanks in part to an image moulded by television ads of her riding a motorcycle, shooting a handgun and promising to make big-spenders in Washington “squeal.” The squeal ad in particular vaulted Ernst to national attention, as she walked through a barn while noting she “grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm” and was ready to cut pork. The ad was interspersed with scenes of pigs and the sounds of squeals.
In her campaign for reelection, Ernst portrayed herself as deeply conservative but willing to work with Democrats when possible.
Victor Litzi, 64, of Council Bluffs, backed Ernst, saying the Republican “is proven.”
“Theresa Greenfield has come out of nowhere and she is backed by the liberals,” he said.
Gloria Mazza, 67, a Republican from the Des Moines suburb of Clive, also voted for Ernst in part because she was effective in her first term.
“She’s such a bipartisan senator. She works very hard for the state,” Mazza said.
Greenwood had argued Ernst actually worked more closely with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Donald Trump and corporate lobbyists than for Iowans.
“Sen. Ernst sold out Iowans for her big corporate donors,” Greenfield said in one of the Senate debates.
Greenfield has called for a more effective response to the coronavirus pandemic, emphasized health care and her support for expanding the Affordable Care Act and promised to protect Social Security benefits.
Ernst has responded by pointing to her support of tax cuts proposed by Trump and argued she’s willing to work with Democrats on issues such as infrastructure. She also has portrayed Greenfield as being controlled by liberal Democratic leaders and eager to push a radical agenda on issues such as taxes and environmental policy.
“What we can’t do is turn our country over to the radical left, those that are funding Ms. Greenfield’s campaign, their extreme abortionist ideas, the radical environmental ideas that would kill Iowa’s farms and eliminate our manufacturing jobs,” Ernst said.
Ernst, 50, served in the Iowa Army National Guard for 22 years before retiring in 2015 as a lieutenant colonel. She also was twice elected auditor of Montgomery County in western Iowa and served in the state Legislature before her election to the U.S. Senate. She’s from Red Oak.
Greenfield, 56, grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and now lives in Des Moines, where she is president of a Des Moines real estate and development company.
Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.
Mitch McConnell’s title has been corrected to Senate Majority Leader instead of Senate President.
Scott McFetridge, The Associated Press