Ernst Tops GOP Field In Iowa Senate Contest

Image: Joni Ernst, Gail Ernst
Nati Harnik / AP

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Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst has won her party’s nomination for the fall campaign according to the Associated Press, topping a crowded field of GOP candidates seeking to take the seat being vacated by Democratic Senator Tom Harkin.

Ernst will face Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the November general election that will be key in determing which party controls the Senate come 2015.

Ernst's victory was large enough to avoid a nominating convention later this month. Her campaign was buoyed by provocative TV ads – including one in which she bragged about her experience in castrating hogs -- that helped separate her from the crowded Republican field.

In her victory speech Tuesday, she pledged to work unite the Iowa Republicans to defeat Braley, who earlier this year was caught on tape knocking Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley as a farmer with no law degree.

"Some might attack me because I don't have a law degree, but let me tell you what I do have. I have Iowa values: hard work, strong character, love of country," Ernst said.
Her primary bid had the backing of establishment and Tea Party Republicans alike, earning endorsements from the likes of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Other potential 2016 presidential candidates also got involved in the race with endorsements in the first-in-nation caucus state. Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, endorsed radio host Sam Clovis and Texas Gov. Rick Perry endorsed former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker.