DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday that she will work to help fellow Republican Joni Ernst win their party's nomination for the U.S. Senate seat and will campaign for Ernst during the 2014 general election.
Ernst, from Red Oak, was elected to succeed Reynolds in a southwest Iowa Senate district and is serving in her third year. Reynolds said Ernst is a proven conservative and the best of the Republican Party.
“We also have an opportunity to make history,” Reynolds said. “We have an opportunity to send the first woman to represent Iowa at the federal level. What a positive and powerful impact that will have for young women all across the state of Iowa.”
Reynolds said she typically doesn't make endorsements in primaries, but said she stepped forward because of her long friendship with Ernst and her belief that she can defeat U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, the likely Democratic nominee for the office to be vacated by Sen. Tom Harkin when the Democrat retires in 2015.
The June 2014 primary is likely to be crowded: There are five other Republican candidates, and others are weighing whether to run.
Reynolds said she plans to talk with potential donors and discuss in her travels around the state how she believes Ernst is uniquely qualified to defeat Braley. Among those qualifications, Reynolds said, are Ernst's role as a mother, an Iowa National Guard lieutenant colonel who served in Kuwait and Iraq for a year, and her ability as a former county auditor and a current state senator to help balance budgets.
Reynolds also touted Ernst's conservative credentials in supporting Second Amendment gun rights and favoring restrictions on abortions.
Gov. Terry Branstad said he will not endorse a Republican primary candidate but respects Reynolds' right to have her opinion and to express it.
“I certainly respect and understand why she would support and endorse her friend, but I'm also realistic enough to know that the only endorsement that really counts is that of the voters on Election Day,” he said.
Branstad has singled out Ernst in previous interviews, including an appearance in July on the Iowa Public Television program “Iowa Press,” where he touted Ernst's National Guard ranking, service in Iraq and her positions in elected local and state government.
“She's one I met with and encouraged,” Branstad said.
Ernst said she's “extremely humbled” to receive Reynolds' endorsement.
“This will just continue the momentum of the campaign,” she said. “We have a number of endorsements that have come out already, and I'm proud to have those endorsements and I'm excited about having this opportunity.”
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