WASHINGTON -- Voters in Iowa elected Republican Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, making her the state's first woman senator.
Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, catapulted to stardom during the GOP primary with ads featuring her castrating hogs and pulling a handgun from her purse. The spots also helped Ernst win support from prominent Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The woman who branded herself a "mother, soldier, leader” convinced Republicans she was the party's best chance to turn red a Senate seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
While Ernst propelled herself to victory by painting herself as a Midwestern woman who grew up on a farm, Democrats pointed to questionable statements to claim she's a hard-right conservative, if not a conspiracy theorist.
While campaigning last November, Ernst backed a right-wing theory that the United Nations' sustainable development plan Agenda 21 is a conspiracy that would enable the government to strip Americans of their freedom and eliminate private property rights.
All of us agreed that Agenda 21 is a horrible idea. One of those implications to Americans, again, going back to what did it does do to the individual family here in the state of Iowa, and what I've seen, the implications that it has here is moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don't have property rights anymore. These are all things that the UN is behind, and it's bad for the United States and bad for families here in the state of Iowa.
States Can Nullify Federal Laws
At a forum held by Iowa's Faith & Freedom Coalition in July, Ernst suggested that states can somehow nullify laws passed by the federal government.
You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. senator, why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right ... we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the 10th Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators -- as senators or congressman -- that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.
WMDs In Iraq
Ernst told the Des Moines Register's editorial board in May that she believed there were weapons of mass destruction found during the United States' invasion of Iraq. From the Daily Beast:
"We don't know that there were weapons on the ground when we went in," she said, "however, I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." When a Register reporter quizzed her on what information she has, Ernst said, "My husband served in Saudi Arabia as the Army Central Command sergeant major for a year and that's a hot-button topic in that area."
Ernst later clarified those comments in a statement conceding that there were no WMDs in Iraq, although the country had used them before.
47 Percent Mentality
Audio recorded by Radio Iowa in 2013 revealed that Ernst, like many conservatives, holds a "makers vs. takers" view toward social welfare programs. But as Greg Sargent reported, her comments went further than former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent" video.
We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs ... we rely on government for absolutely everything. And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it. But we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything.
Climate Change Skeptic
While hardly unique among Republicans, Ernst has claimed she does not possess the scientific knowhow to weigh in on whether humans are causing climate change. But she did chalk it up to "cyclic changes in the weather" during an interview in May.
Yes, we do see climates change, but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made. I think we do have cyclic changes in weather, and I think that's been throughout the course of history. What impact is man-made. ... but I do think we can educate people to make good choices.
She Really Likes Her Gun
An ad featuring Ernst shooting at a target that is supposed to represent the federal government isn't the first time she has used such a stark metaphor. Speaking at a 2012 NRA event, Ernst said her firearm would help protect her if the government imposes on her rights.
I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.
Ernst also has suggested that President Barack Obama should be impeached, expressed openness to privatizing Social Security, called for abortion providers to be punished if a fetal personhood bill were passed, and opposed a federal minimum wage hike.
BEFORE YOU GO
11/05/2014 8:27 AM EST
Christie: GOP Wins Show Focus On Leadership
The AP reported Wednesday:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says Republican victories in governor's races across the country show voters want leaders who will "get things done," rather that fighting over ideology.
Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a possible 2016 candidate for president, said he was gratified by GOP wins in Democratic-leaning states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, as well as victories in key swing states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Christie said voters "elect and re-elect governors to get things done."
Christie, who campaigned for GOP candidates across the country, said the winners deserve the credit, not him. He said elections are "always about the candidate."
Christie spoke Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show, ABC's "Good Morning America" and Fox News Channel.
11/05/2014 7:46 AM EST
President Obama To Address Midterm Results In Afternoon Press Conference
President Barack Obama will speak to the press Wednesday afternoon to address his party's resounding loss in the 2014 midterm elections, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest. He is expected to strike a tone of compromise and accountability following a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate and many of the nation's gubernatorial offices.
Obama tried reached out to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is widely expected to be the next senate majority leader and who also won re-election Tuesday night, and left a message, CNN reported.
The president's press conference will take place at 2:50 p.m. Eastern time from the East Room of the White House.
11/05/2014 6:57 AM EST
Indictment, Dog Killing, Infidelity Overcome By GOP Candidates
How bad was it for Democrats? Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican facing a 20-count indictment won in New York and another known for outbursts of rage and killing a beagle, Mike Bost, won a seat in President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois that had been Democratic for 70 years.
Down in Tennessee, Rep. Scott DesJarlais' past infidelities and pushing of abortion on a mistress continued to not matter to voters, who handed him a landslide victory.
There were a couple of bright spots for Democrats, or at least the more moderate crowd. Florida Rep. Steve Southerland lost to Democrat Gwen Graham after holding an all-male fundraiser and joking about Graham in lingerie. And in Louisiana, GOP Rep. Vance McAllister, dubbed the "Kissing Congressman" after he was caught on tape smooching a staffer, finished far back in the field in his contest.
-- Michael McAuliff
11/05/2014 5:24 AM EST
Expect A Delay In Results
AP not calling these races until the number of outstanding votes can be verified: Va. gov.; Conn. gov.; Colo. gov.; Alaska gov, Senate.— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) November 5, 2014
11/05/2014 5:07 AM EST
Alaska Becomes 4th State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana
In yet another major pushback against the war on drugs, Alaska legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, joining Oregon and Washington, D.C. -- both of which legalized cannabis only hours before. Alaska becomes the fourth state in the U.S. to legalize retail marijuana, along with Oregon, Colorado and Washington state.
Voters approved Measure 2, which legalizes the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana. Adults, age 21 and older, may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants (with no more than three being mature) for personal use. The measure also legalizes the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana paraphernalia, such as devices used for smoking or storing the plant.
“The folks trying to keep marijuana illegal are relying on the same scare tactics today that they have relied on for decades, but voters just aren’t falling for it anymore," Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement early Wednesday morning. "The results are particularly encouraging since voter turnout during a midterm election is typically smaller, older, and more conservative. Clearly, support for ending marijuana prohibition spans the political and ideological spectrums."
Read more here.
-- Matt Ferner
11/05/2014 4:28 AM EST
Ah, Politics... Chicago-Style
11/05/2014 3:40 AM EST
Sarah Palin To GOP: You Didn't Build This
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took to Facebook last night to issue a hearty congratulations -- and warning -- to her GOP brethren:
Thank you, wise voters! Tonight is a big victory for We the People! Credit is due to the victorious candidates. Your message to President Obama is undeniably received, though he'll try to ignore it.
The Democrats got mauled today, deservedly so. To prohibit that from happening to the GOP in 2016, it must learn the lesson from the last time Republicans held the Senate majority. This time they must not retreat, and it's our responsibility to hold them accountable. Will they fight for reform that aligns with the limited government planks of the Republican platform, or will they return to the big government cronyism and status quo favored by the permanent political class? Will they drain the swamp or decide the D.C. cesspool is really just a jacuzzi they can't wait to jump on into and shake us off?
If GOP leadership returns to business as usual, then this majority will be short lived, for We the People say, “once bitten, twice shy.”
Click here to read the full statement.
11/05/2014 2:55 AM EST
Alaska Approves Minimum Wage Increase
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Alaskans have voted to raise the minimum wage.— Becky Bohrer (@beckybohrerap) November 5, 2014
11/05/2014 2:39 AM EST
Alaska Rep. Don Young Projected To Win 22nd Term
The Associated Press is projecting that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will win re-election as Alaska's only member of Congress.