A heavily-contested Republican primary race for an empty U.S. Senate seat has turned into a money war between the two frontrunners.
This is the first wide-open senate seat race in 40 years after Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced he would not seek re-election. U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley emerged as the only strong Democrat candidate and will not face any competition in the primary.
In the Republican primary, state Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, leads Mark Jacobs in the latest polls according to the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll.
Ernst garnered 36 percent of likely GOP voter support in the poll during the final week before the June 3 primary. Jacobs slid four points to 18 percent.
Matt Whitaker, Sam Clovis and Scott Schaben are also in the running, but have failed to build much momentum. Whitaker is sitting third in the polls at 13 percent.
A Montgomery County native, Ernst served time as the county auditor in 2004 and 2008. She was voted into the Iowa Senate during a special election in 2011 and re-elected in 2012.
She gained national attention with an ad that included hog castration, helping propel her fundraising efforts to more than $1.1 million heading into the primary.
“I am humbled by the support of so many donors from all corners of Iowa and around the country. With continued efforts of donors and grassroots supporters alike, I am able to keep spreading my message of Iowa values, letting Iowans know that I’m the candidate that can beat Bruce Braley this fall,” Ernst said in a press release.
Ernst, 43, is a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard and served during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I believe that as a mother, a soldier, and a proven conservative, the values I hold dear, and have fought more than 20 years to protect, are being threatened,” Ernst said in a press release.
Ernst has been hit by negative ads for voting to raise the gas tax — a proposal that eventually failed — and for missing votes during the Iowa legislative session for campaigning.
She did miss some votes from required service with the Iowa Army National Guard.
A retired investment banker and energy industry CEO, Jacobs has funded a majority of his campaign with his own money.
He dropped more than $3 million of his own money, starting television ads in December and negative ads against Ernst in mid-May.
Born in Iowa, Jacobs returned to West Des Moines with his family after three decades of business work in New York and Houston. In 2007, he was named CEO of Reliant Energy, a Fortune 500 company.
“One of the things I heard consistently all over this great state was that people are frustrated with the inability of our leaders in Washington to solve problems,” Jacobs said in a Creston News Advertiser interview. “I’m a business guy. I’ve never been in politics before, but my entire career as a business leader has been on getting things done.”
Jacobs believes one of the core problems is a lack of good jobs and wants to stimulate job creation at the community college and vocational school level. He wants to close the skill gap workers face by giving the financial resources to schools to educate the workforce.
“When Americans are gainfully employed, our families do better, crime rates decrease, revenue to the government increases and deficits go down,” Jacobs said.
Polls open 7 a.m. Tuesday and will remain open until 9 p.m. Voting locations in Union County are Afton Methodist Church, Arispe Methodist Church, Salem Lutheran Church, Southwestern Community College, Trinity Lutheran Church, Supertel Inn, Crest Baptist Church and Lorimor City Hall.
Don’t know which of these locations you should vote at? Visit www.unioncountyiowa.org, click on elections tab, click on precinct names and polling places, then click on the maps to find your polling place.
See Wednesday's edition of the Creston News Advertiser for election results.