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Ernst is seeking re-election, but is open to a role in the Trump administration

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa journalist. He is a co-founder of the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation and a member of the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative, where this article first appeared in the Iowa Mercury newsletter. His family operated the Carroll Times Herald for 93 years in Carroll, Iowa, where Burns lives.

Two-term U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican and the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate, said May 29 that she will seek a third term in 2026.

In an interview in Carroll with the Iowa Mercury and the Carroll Times Herald following an economic development event, Ernst, 53, left the door open to a possible Cabinet position in a second Trump administration if the former president takes office in November. would gain the upper hand. Trump vetted Ernst as a possible vice presidential running mate in the 2016 cycle.

When asked directly if she planned to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2026, and to rate her likelihood on a scale of 1 to 10 for a third-term bid (with 10 being the most likely), she said Ernst: ‘That is my intention. . So I would say yes, 10 most likely. I love representing the people of Iowa, and being able to fight for rural America has truly been a very fulfilling position for me. Of course, our veterans and the armed forces are also important to me.”

Ernst said she would wait until after the 2024 election cycle to get “a little closer” to 2026 before making this announcement.

The Republican senator said she is raising money for the 2026 race.

As for possible consideration as Trump’s vice presidential candidate, Ernst gave no indication that she is being vetted. Her name doesn’t appear on many pundits and insiders’ lists, where several of her Senate colleagues — Tim Scott of South Carolina, J.D. Vance of Ohio and Tom Cotton of Arkansas — are mentioned.

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Ernst said of Trump’s running mate turn. “But I would be honored if I were considered for a position within the administration. Of course I would be honored. Everyone would consider it an honor to be remembered.”

Ernst said her focus is on the Senate, where she currently holds the fourth leadership position and is seeking the third leadership spot: chair of the Senate Republican Conference.

“Who knows what the future holds,” she said.

In 2016, I wrote a column for Des Moines Cityview with an analysis of why Ernst would be Trump’s strongest running mate. The column title: “10 reasons why Trump should select Joni Ernst as his running mate.”

That year, as part of a wide-ranging interview on a range of topics, I asked Ernst about the possibility of her being on a vice presidential selection list.

“That’s very nice of you,” Ernst said in 2016. “I think my mother would really enjoy hearing you say that. But right now, I just spent a year in the United States Senate, and I feel like I’ve been an influential member in the Senate, as I’m a first-year freshman.

Ernst succeeded longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin in 2015 after she defeated then-U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley in 2014. She won re-election to the Senate in 2020 by six points in a race with Democrat Theresa Greenfield, now a top U.S. Agriculture Department official. officially.

So far, no prominent Iowa Democrats have publicly engaged Ernst in a 2026 Senate battle.


Top photo: Joni Ernst speaks to Iowans during a town hall meeting in Osceola (Clarke County) on May 28. Cropped from an image first published on her official Facebook page.