The November 4 election made history in Iowa, as Republican Joni Ernst defeated Democrat Bruce Braley for the U.S. Senate. When she takes office in January, Ernst will become Iowa's first female U.S. Senator, and the first female military veteran in the U.S. Senate. She claimed victory with 52% of the vote Tuesday night in a contentious race that was fueled by big money. For the past 5 months the Ernst vs. Braley battle made history as Iowa's most expensive race ever. All totaled more than $79 million was spent trying to get people to vote for these two candidates.
Iowa has never before elected a woman to the U.S. House or Senate. Ernst, a 44-year-old state senator from Red Oak in southwest Iowa, rose from being an unknown to national fame to beat Braley, a member of Congress who gave up his seat to run for the U.S. Senate. An attorney who lives in Waterloo, Braley represented Iowa's First Congressional District which covers northeast Iowa. He was hoping to replace long-time Democrat U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, who is retiring. Ernst billed herself as a soldier, mother and independent leader who would reduce government spending, while Braley billed himself as the candidate who would help the middle class.
Senate election fueled by outside money for both candidates
Outside groups spent a total of $24.5 million to generate opposition to Ernst, and $19.9 million to attack Braley, reports OpenSecrets.org. Ernst came under fire from Democrats who pointed out that she accepted campaign funding from the Koch Brothers, billionaire industrialists who have a lot of oil money. Democrats questioned whether Ernst would support renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, since her campaign was funded by a large amount of oil money.
Ernst's rise from state senator to U.S. senator really took off and began gaining strength in late March. That was when her campaign released two videos that attracted a lot of attention by TV political pundits and repeated showing on YouTube.
One tape, known as "the farmer from Iowa," showed remarks that haunted Braley for the rest of the election campaign. Braley, speaking at a fundraiser last January in Texas held by the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, was caught on tape saying if Democrats lost control of the U.S. Senate, "a farmer from Iowa without a law degree" would become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That "farmer from Iowa" is U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican. Braley implied that Grassley wasn't qualified to head the Judiciary Committee.
Ernst vows: "We are going to make them squeal"
The other video that gave momentum to Ernst's campaign was her "Squeal" TV ad. With a big smile, Ernst told viewers she grew up on a farm where she learned how to castrate pigs. If voters elected her this November, she promised she would go to Washington and "work hard to cut this out-of-control federal spending." She said "We're going to make them squeal." Ernst worked hard to build her image as an Iowa farm girl, politically conservative and who knows how to get the job done. Before that "Squeal" TV ad started running, Braley was raising more campaign money. But after the ad began running, Ernst went on to set an Iowa fundraising record.
While Republican Joni Ernst defeated Bruce Braley for the U.S. Senate, Republicans Rod Blum and David Young also won the two open U.S. House seats. Young beat Staci Appel in the 3rd District race; Blum beat Pat Murphy in the 1st District that had been held by Braley. Congressman Steve King, a Republican, won a 7th term by defeating Jim Mower in the 4th Congressional District race. Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat, won a fifth term by beating Marianette Miller-Meeks in the 2nd District.
Iowa Farm Bureau congratulates victorious candidates
Craig Hill, president, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, issued the following statement regarding results of U.S. 2014 midterm elections: "As the 2014 midterm elections have concluded, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation would like to congratulate all candidates that emerged victorious. We look forward to working with all of Iowa's elected officials to advance the priority issues of our 156,000+ member families.
"Last night's election results demonstrated the importance of rural and agricultural issues to Iowa voters. As the state's largest general farm organization, IFBF looks forward to working with our recently-elected and re-elected officials to carry out our mission of helping Iowa farm families prosper and improving their quality of life."
IRFA: "Renewable fuels remain in good hands in Iowa"
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association issued a press release congratulating Iowa's 2014 federal and state election winners, noting strong support for renewable fuels among the winning candidates.
"It's not surprising ethanol and biodiesel enjoy broad, bipartisan support in Iowa," says IRFA PAC treasurer Walt Wendland. "It's also encouraging to see renewable fuels will remain in good hands in Iowa. We look forward to working with all of the 2014 election winners for state and federal offices to continue to preserve and advance Iowa's leadership in renewable fuels production, agriculture and environmental stewardship."
Winning candidates from Iowa support renewable fuels
In the races for federal office, Iowa elected Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate, and David Young and Rod Blum to the U.S. House. Iowans also re-elected Governor Terry Branstad, and Reps. Steve King and Dave Loebsack. Each winning candidate reported strong support for renewable fuels and the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in IRFA's renewable fuels candidate survey. To view the survey results, please click here.
Iowa is the nation's leader in renewable fuels production. Iowa has 43 ethanol refineries capable of producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually, including 22 million gallons of annual cellulosic ethanol production capacity and one cellulosic ethanol facility currently under construction. In addition, Iowa has 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually.
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association was formed in 2002 to represent the state's liquid renewable fuels industry. The trade group fosters the development and growth of the renewable fuels industry in Iowa through education, promotion, legislation and infrastructure development. For more information visit ww.iowarfa.org.
Biodiesel Board congratulates Congressional winners
The Iowa Biodiesel Board offered its congratulations to the 2014 election winners, and the board remains optimistic for the future of biodiesel policies in Washington. Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director, issued the following statement:
"We congratulate Iowa's election winners, and look forward to working with all of them in the effort to diversify our nation's fuel supply with biodiesel, America's Advanced Biofuel. We are confident the new Senate and House winners will support biodiesel and biofuel issues. Having hosted Senator Joni Ernst at a biodiesel plant during the campaign, we were pleased to hear her declare strong support for biodiesel and the Renewable Fuel Standard to IBB members. IBB will continue to be a resource for her and all of our elected officials."
Future of Renewable Fuel Standard is important issue
Kimberley adds: "Sen. Ernst and Rep. David Young in particular have strong ties to Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley, who have been tireless champions for biofuel and agriculture issues. We're confident these newly elected officials will be just as supportive in providing leadership on these important issues. We also look forward to working with Rep. Rod Blum. Likewise, we believe the House incumbents, Reps. Dave Loebsack and Steve King, will continue to support biodiesel and our nation's drive for smart, consistent federal energy policy. The economic and energy security benefits biodiesel provides are second to none, making the RFS one of the most effective policies we have."
The biodiesel industry awaits final RFS volumes for 2014 from Washington, D.C. The last known proposal would set biodiesel volumes at 1.28 billion gallons. That's a sharp cut from last year's production of nearly 1.8 billion gallons. The Iowa Biodiesel Board is a nonpartisan state trade association representing the biodiesel industry.