U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa bids for No. 3 GOP leadership post against Tom Cotton

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa will face Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas in the race to become the next Senate Republican Conference chair, her office confirmed Monday.

Ernst, if elected, would move up one spot in the Senate GOP leadership lineup and be the first woman to hold the position for the party since 1973. Ernst is already No. 4 as chair of the Republican Policy Committee.

Cotton and Ernst both won midterm races in 2014 to help bring a Republican majority to the Senate during former President Barack Obama’s second term. Both are veterans and have served overseas.

An announcement by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky that he would step down from his post in November opened opportunities for a new era of Republican leadership in the upper chamber.

Republican Senate Whip John Thune of South Dakota and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas are jockeying to replace McConnell.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the current Republican Senate Conference chair, announced he will run to replace Thune as whip in the no. 2 spot.

The campaign for leadership began in earnest after McConnell’s announcement and will not conclude until a secret-ballot election in November.

Ernst first told Politico Sunday about her decision to run for the No. 3 leadership job.

Ernst’s office did not provide a statement Monday but told Politico “this is winnable for me.”

The second-term senator and veteran of the Army Reserve and Iowa National Guard would be the second woman ever in the Republican Party to sit as conference chair.

The first to do so, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, held the position during the 90th through the 92nd Congresses.

The Republican Party has never elected a woman to the position of majority or minority leader, nor to be whip.

Ernst took office on Jan. 3, 2015 and currently sits as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, as well as serving as a member of the Armed Services and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry committees.

Cotton assumed office on the same day and today serves alongside Ernst on the Armed Services Committee. Cotton is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism, as well as being a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Joint Economic Committee.

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