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Iowa's Joni Ernst to Deliver GOP Response to State of the Union

Newly elected senator is the first female combat veteran to serve in the United States Senate.
Image: Joni Ernst
Republican Senate candidate State Sen. Joni Ernst speaks to supporters during a campaign stop, Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in Ankeny, Iowa. Ernst is running against Democrat U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley for the U.S. Senate seat of Tom Harkin, who is not seeking reelection.Charlie Neibergall / AP

Newly elected Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, Republicans announced Thursday.

The freshman senator is the first woman elected to the office from Iowa and the first female combat veteran to serve in the United States Senate.

Ernst, who beat Democrat Bruce Braley decisively in November, told reporters she is "humbled and honored" to have the opportunity to deliver the address.

"It is a long way from Red Oak to Washington, DC and growing up on a Southwest Iowa farm years ago, I never, never would have imagined that I would have this opportunity," she said.

The announcement was made at a Republican legislative retreat in Hersey, Pennsylvania.

She won national headlines during the campaign for her ad "Squeal," in which she noted that her upbringing on a hog farm offered her expertise in "how to cut pork."

The State of the Union address is scheduled for January 20.

- Carrie Dann and Alex Moe