Democrat Theresa Greenfield—She Aims to Make GOP Senator Joni “Hog Castrator” Ernst “Squeal” in Defeat May 24, 2020
“What goes around, comes around.” Iowa is no exception. Recall Campaign 2014? In the race to succeed retiring Iowa liberal Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, GOPer Joni Ernst won her Republican primary. How? Ernst ran a cable TV ad that went viral and was the talk of political pundits, newspaper reporters, and IA voters. In her ad, labeled “the squeal,” then little known Ernst declared, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So, when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork. … Washington’s full of big spenders. Let’s make them squeal.” Ernst went on to win her primary with 56% of the vote and handily trounced Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac). Ernst was one of the GOPers who helped flip the Senate “Red” in 2014 making Mitch “obstructionist” McConnell (R-KY) our current Senate Majority Leader.
Fast forward to Campaign 2020. In her introductory video announcing her run against first-term GOP Senator Joni Ernst, Democrat Theresa Greenfield has thrown Ernst’s video showing hogs and talking of castrating them right back at her. Like Ernst, Greenfield’s ad made waves throughout the Hawkeye State and among political analysts. In her powerful video bio, Greenfield stated, “I’m a proud farm kid, with farm kid values. I worked my way through community college, became a community planner and today, I’m president of a small business. Growing up on a family farm in a small town of 500, you had to pull your own weight. But we also had to look out for each other-our family, our friends, our communities. We sure did during the farm crisis. It was all hands on deck.” Greenfield added, “Listen, folks she (Ernst) didn’t castrate anyone. She (Ernst) cast her vote to let the corporate lobbyists keep feasting, like hogs at the trough. You really want to ‘make ‘em squeal?’ Ban corporate PAC money, take away their loopholes and special tax breaks.… Iowans deserve a Senator who is ACTUALLY going to fight for them, and put the people of our great state first. I’m a farm kid with farm kid values ready to fight for working people. That’s why I’m running for US Senate (desmoinesregister.com, Pfannenstiel, B., 6/03/19, Community News, Brennan, P., 5/12/20).”
Greenfield, like presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, overcame personal tragedy. Greenfield’s first husband, a union electrician, was electrocuted on the job. Greenfield, then 24, was the mother of a 13-month child and pregnant with a second. Greenfield credited Social Security with supporting her and her two young children. Greenfield remarried, now has four grown children, and is president of a small family-owned commercial real estate company, Colby Interests, in the Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights (desmoinesregister.com, 6/03/19, Community News, 5/12/20). Greenfield stated that when she sees politicians take millions from Wall Street and then threaten to cut Social Security, “I say, ‘no way.’ This is personal to me (twitter.com @GreenfieldIowa).” In announcing her Senate bid, Greenfield said that Sen. Joni Ernst “failed to live up to the promises she made when she first ran for office in 2014.” Greenfield rightly accused Sen. Ernst of “not acting independently and disappointing her and so many Iowans (desmoinesregister.com, Pfannenstiel, 6/03/19).”
Greenfield published her own plan to end political corruption. She is for legislation to override the U.S. Supreme Ct’s Citizens United opinion that allows millions of dollars to influence elections. She is against corporate PACs (political action committees) and against dark money, or secret contributions by companies and individuals. She is supported by the End Citizens United Group. She opposed the Trump/GOP top 1% tax cut (About Theresa, Community News, 5/12/20). Greenfield is for strengthening the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, creating a public health insurance option for Iowans to buy into, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, and protecting rural hospitals. Greenfield remembers how her first husband’s union helped her and her children after his tragic death. She is a strong labor union supporter and has been endorsed by local unions across IA. She is for equal pay for women. As a small business entrepreneur, Greenfield stands for increasing access to capital and helping startups (About Theresa). A product of public schools, Greenfield stands for expanding public pre-K and investing in higher education (About Theresa). With her farm background, Greenfield will stand up for farmers in D.C. which Trump and the GOP are not doing. She is for expanding background checks on guns and keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers (About Theresa). She has six uncles who fought for the U.S. and her youngest son just re-enlisted in the U.S. Army. She stands for our military men and women as well as giving returning veterans top health care. In addition to Social Security, Greenfield will protect Medicare, crucial to many Iowans. Greenfield is pro-choice and has been endorsed by EMILY’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice America. She will fight attacks on Planned Parenthood and anti-abortion restrictions (About Theresa). She will protect LGBTQ rights. The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund has endorsed Greenfield. She opposes Senators who question and deny the science of climate change, and wants to strengthen environmental laws. She supports keeping immigrant families together and favors the DREAM Act. Greenfield wants to fix our immigration system without stoking fears that divide this country, and is for improving our border security (About Theresa).
Meet Senator Joni Ernst whom Theresa Greenfield hopes to defeat. Raised on a farm in rural Montgomery County, IA, Ernst received a 1992 B.S. from Iowa State University and a 1995 Master’s from GA’s Columbus State University. She joined the National Guard in 1993 and was deployed to Kuwait during the Iraq War in 2003-2004 where she commanded a transportation company. In 2015, Ernst retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after 23 years in the IA National Guard (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac, ABOUT JONI, joniforiowa.com/bio). In 2004, Ernst was elected Montgomery County auditor and re-elected in 2008. In 2011, Ernst won a special election to the IA State Senate where she took the place of present GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds. Ernst won re-election to that seat in 2012. When other prominent GOPers decided not to run for retiring Dem. Tom Harkin’s Senate seat, Ernst jumped into a five-way GOP primary against some better financed rivals. She was endorsed by both Tea Partier Sarah Palin, “establishment” GOPer Mitt Romney, Gov. Reynolds, and 23 current and former state legislators (ABOUT JONI, Cohen & Cook 2020). As previously discussed, Ernst’s hog-castrating “squeal” ad powered her to a strong victory in her 5-way GOP primary (Cook & Cohen 2020).
In the general election, Dem. Congressman Bruce Braley, a former trial lawyer, was favored. Braley, however, ran a campaign riddled with so many gaffes that many pundits labeled him the worst 2014 national political nominee. He was caught on tape at a trial lawyer’s convention ridiculing IA GOP Senator Chuck Grassley. Braley argued that if the GOP re- took the Senate majority, Grassley, “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never, practiced law, would chair the Senate Judiciary Committee.” GOPers played these comments 48/7. Braley was labeled by Republicans and pundits as an “out-of-touch elitist” in farm-heavy IA, in contrast to “folksy small-town Iowan” Ernst. Braley additionally violated the “Iowa Nice” code by making a fuss about a neighbor’s chickens that sometimes crossed into his yard (See cnn.com, Levy, 9/17/14). In GOP year 2014, Ernst easily flipped former Democrat Harkin’s seat into the “Team Red” column with an 8% win (Cohen & Cook 2020). Ernst also received more than a little bit of help from Koch Industries. In 6/2014, two weeks after winning her primary, she attended a secret meeting with Koch in CA, after which she received about $60,000 or more from Victory Trust 2014, a group the Koch network used to help candidates it favored. Koch support included hundreds of thousands of dollars of TV ads for Ernst funded by undisclosed donors and tens of thousands of dollars in direct campaign contributions (politico.com, Vogel, 11/12/15). In a tape leaked of this Koch event, Ernst, who by her own account, had previously been “a little-known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa,” credited the Kochs with transforming her like “My Fair Lady’s” Liza Doolittle into a “national star.” Ernst added that exposure to this (Koch) network “really started my trajectory (Mayer, “Dark Money,”2016, 2017).”
In the Senate, Ernst did not disappoint patron Koch or her other right-wing backers, her “true” constituents. Although she labels herself an “independent” Republican, “Politico,” characterized her as “a reliable vote for most of Trump’s agenda (Levine, M., politic.co).” She sure is. There was even speculation that Trump would choose her as his VP running mate in 2016. She has voted with Demagogue Donald 91.1% of the time (projects.fivethirtyeight.com, Cohen & Cook 2020). From 2017-2018, Sen. Ernst had a composite 4% liberal to a 96% conservative rating that included economic, social, and foreign issues (Cohen & Cook 2020). She opposes the minimum wage. She voted for Donald’s regressive top 1% tax cut (iowapublicradio.org, Cohen & Cook 2020). She has pushed for abolishing the Dept. of Education (iptv.org). In a leaked tape of a D.C. fundraiser, Ernst called Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security spending “out of control” and “will require changes” in the future, code phrases for massive cuts. Ernst had previously pushed for such social safety cuts and opponent Greenfield hammered her for it (soundcloud.com, iowastartingline.com. 2/12/2020). Concerning global warming, Ernst has stated that she “can’t say one way or another whether it’s manmade or not, but any regulatory role by the government in this area needs to be “very small (iowapublicradio.org).” She has an “A” rating from the NRA. She supports allowing law-abiding citizens to “freely carry weapons.” She offered her “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting massacre (nrapvf.org, latimes.com, 10/03/17, Hiltzik). She is for “nullifying” Obamacare and voted to repeal it (msnbc.com, 10/3/14, Cohen & Cook 2020). She opposes same-sex marriage and is anti-choice (joniforiowa.com). She was placed on the Senate Judiciary Committee and voted for hard-right conservatives Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to sit on the Supreme Ct. (Cohen & Cook 2020).
The latest PPP Poll shows an absolute toss- up between “Team Red” Ernst and Democratic Greenfield, with Ernst leading by a statistically insignificant 43%-42% margin. Iowans are catching on to Ernst’s lap-dog Trump stance and her failure to help their state. Her popularity has taken a hit. She now has a 37%-43% approval/disapproval rating. This race, however, will be no “cakewalk” for Greenfield. She still has to win her 6/02/2020 primary against three other Democrats although she has received the backing of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) and other major endorsements. Currently, she is handily leading the field according to a recent poll (Brennan, Community News, 5/12/20, 5/5-6/20, PPP). Should Greenfield win her primary, she will have to face a well-funded Ernst for whom Koch and others will turn on the monetary spigot. IA has tilted GOP in the last few years and Trump won here in 2016 by 9 points. Donald is neck and neck with Biden now. He leads Biden by 2% points, and this state will probably be one big swing one, come 11/2020. (Kos, 5/04/2020). Greenfield raised more money than Ernst in the third quarter of 2019, but that is political eons away (“The Hill,” Axelrod, 10/11/19). Democrats must keep raising money for Greenfield to give her a chance. Most important, however, is the “T” word, turnout. In 11/2020, Hawkeye Democrats and moderates must come out in droves via mail ballots or at the polls. That is the only way to send Joni Ernst “squealing” home from D.C.