Just over a week into the campaign, the Iowa Senate race between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley has intensified, with both camps coming under fire over controversies involving sexist language.
It all began when the Braley campaign released a TV advertisement last Thursday, featuring a baby chick as a way to illustrate how they said Ernst never made a “peep” about cutting pork while serving in the Iowa State Senate.
While the ad never explicitly refers to Ernst as a “chick,” her campaign was nonetheless quick to denounce any implicit comparisons.
Ernst spokesperson Gretchen Hamel said in a statement that the ad “degrades and insults Iowa women by comparing Joni Ernst to a ‘chick,’” and she pointed to a number of bills Ernst co-sponsored to limit government spending.
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Then, only days after attacking Braley for offending women, the Ernst campaign found itself on the defensive, when it was revealed by Democratic operatives that Joni Ernst’s husband, Gail Ernst, had made inflammatory statements about Hillary Clinton and Janet Napolitano on his Facebook page.
In a May 2013 post related to the attack in Benghazi, he wrote about Hillary Clinton “Truly more of a hag now than when she was 1st Lady!”
In a post in April 2013 about giving up guns to the Department of Homeland Security, he referred to Janet Napolitano as a “traitorous skank.”
Joni Ernst condemned her husband’s comments in a statement, saying “I’m appalled by my husband’s remarks. They are uncalled for and clearly inappropriate. I’ve addressed this issue with my husband and that’s between us.”
Gail Ernst has also apologized, saying in a statement that “it is not the respect that women deserve or the example I want to set for my daughters.”
State polls place Ernst ahead of Braley in what is shaping up to be a negative and very competitive race for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat. If she were to win, Ernst would become the first female senator to represent the Hawkeye state.