Whitaker Running for U.S. Senate

By James Lynch, Reporter

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By Jay Knoll

DES MOINES, Iowa – With the exit of 4th District Rep. Steve King from the field of potential Republican U.S. Senate candidates, others who have been waiting in the wings are stepping forward.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, said Monday she “continues to evaluate” making a run in 2014 for the Senate seat that will be vacant when Sen. Tom Harkin retires at the end of his current term.

“As a veteran who has served our country, I feel it is my duty to consider a run for the U.S. Senate,” Ernst, a second-term senator, said in a statement Monday.

Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker told a radio audience he’s in the race for the GOP nomination and will file his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission this week.

“I think I’m the person to do that,” Whitaker said about running for Senate.

Also, Ames attorney Paul Lunde, who lost to former Rep. Neal Smith in 1992 by a 62 percent to 37 percent margin, also announced he intends to run.

First District Rep. Bruce Braley is the only Democrat who has announced for the seat. He has Harkin’s endorsement.

Whitaker said early on that he would not get into the race if King ran, but that if the western Iowa conservative took a pass, he would compete for the nomination. The former University of Iowa football player was an unsuccessful candidate for state treasurer in 2002 is a managing partner in Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff LLP, a law firm with offices in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.

While Whitaker, 43, has made his decision, Ernst said she will be discussing a possible campaign with Iowans and praying with her family before making any decision. She and her husband, Gail, have three daughters.

“I greatly appreciate the thoughts, prayers, and encouragement I have received from my family, friends, and supporters,” she said.

Among those encouraging her to explore a Senate campaign is Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who Ernst succeeded in the Senate.

“I’ve always been involved in encouraging and strengthening the bench of the Republican Party, especially encouraging females to get involved in the political process,” Reynolds said at a news conference May 6. “So I don’t think it would be uncharacteristic of me to reach out to Sen. Ernst.”

However, she’s not encouraging Ernst just because she’s a woman and Iowa has never elected a woman to federal office.

Reynolds pointed out that she also encouraged Ernst to run for the state Senate and, before that, county office.

Ernst, 42, the former Montgomery County auditor, has 18 years of experience in the Army Reserves and Iowa National Guard where she is a lieutenant colonel. She is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and an MBA from Columbus College.

In weighing the Senate bid, Ernst said she believe “there are critical issues that must be addressed such as out-of-control spending and debt.”

Among others rumored to be eyeing the race are Secretary of State Matt Schultz, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s chief of staff, David Young and former Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs.

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