CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- State Sen. Jodi Ernst wants to bring Iowa values to Washington, D.C.
Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard who bills herself as a mother, soldier and conservative, said she wants to ensure her daughter's generation will inherit the same nation that she inherited.
During a campaign stop at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids Thursday afternoon, Ernst, 43, said economic instability and other policies under the current president are stifling small businesses and hurting the economy.
If elected, the republican from Red Oak said she plans to draw on her leadership experience from the military to steer others in Washington in the right direction. She also said she hopes to use that experience to ensure that the nation's men and servicewomen are better taken care of.
"I understand the importance of a strong national defense at home and abroad, and we must ensure we are taking care of our service men and women and their families when they return home," Ernst said. "They have fought very hard for us, and we must fight equally as hard for them."
Ernst also said she believes in traditional marriage, that life begins at conception, and that she's a strong supporter of the second amendment. She said ensuring the economy continues to move forward and bringing jobs to Iowa will likely be the most important issues facing Iowans in the next six years.
"I don't just believe in these conservative values, I fought 20 years for these conservative values, I put the uniform on to defend these values because I believe they are what made America great, and this is not just talk," Ernst said. "I have dedicated my time to serving and protecting this nation and you can trust that when I go to Washington I will fight for you and for these conservative Iowa values every single day."
If elected, Ernst would be the first woman from Iowa elected to the U.S. Senate. She said Thursday that she doesn't think her gender should play a role in the election, adding she feels there is a void of representation for Iowa women in Washington.
"I am a mother, and that's one of my key stances, but people need to recognize that I am a viable, competent candidate regardless of my gender," Ernst said after her campaign speech. "I am here not because I'm a woman, but because I think I'm the best candidate."
So far, Ernst is the only female candidate in the race for the U.S. Senate, which will open up when U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, retires at the end of his current term. In the republican field, she's up against Ankeny attorney Matt Whitaker, radio host and college professor Sam Clovis, Ames attorney Paul Lunde and former Washington D.C. staffer David Young. Former energy executive Mark Jacobs and Ames car salesman Scott Schaben may also enter the race.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, who will leave his seat in Iowa's 1st Congressional District in order to run, is the only Democrat in the U.S. Senate race so far.