Ernst and Reynolds open up to Iowans at an Iowa GOP reception

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Joni Ernst branched away from policy talk at an Iowa GOP reception in Cedar Rapids, and opened up to Iowans about low points they have experienced and what it’s like to work with Republican leadership.

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Ernst and Reynolds open up to Iowans at an Iowa GOP reception

Hannah Kinson

Hannah Kinson

Hannah Kinson

Julia Shanahan, Assistant Politics Editor

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Joni Ernst talked briefly about ethanol and agriculture policies at an Iowa GOP reception and spent most of the time opening up to attendees about their personal hardships and what it’s like to work with President Trump.

Ernst and Reynolds began the conversation by talking about the “low points” they’ve experienced in their lives, and Ernst called the media covering her divorce with her abusive husband one of her lowest points.

“To have that publicly paraded by the media — things and issues that I wanted to keep quiet,” Ernst said in the upstairs of a four-generation Cedar Rapids barn, “… And my hardships, people took joy in that, and that was really difficult for me.”

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann moderated the conversation and said that was the first time Ernst shared that story in their four stops across the state.

Ernst said that, out of the media storm, women who also had experiences with abusive relationships came forward and thanked her for putting a public face to the issue, and Ernst said that was able to relieve some of the burden she felt.

Ernst is currently running for re-election for one of Iowa’s seats in the U.S. Senate. Her seat is considered to be vulnerable, and her net approval recently dropped nine points — the largest decline in net approval rating compared with any other senator currently up for reelection.

Ernst and Reynolds are both the first women in Iowa to be elected to their current positions. Reynolds talked about her struggle with alcoholism and how she didn’t earn a college degree until she was 57.

“I don’t think I should be standing here as the governor of Iowa,” said Reynolds, emphasizing her nontraditional background as a politician.

Reynolds said in October 2017, before she was elected as governor in fall 2018, she gave a speech at a graduation ceremony in a prison. She said as she read through her prepared remarks, she felt like she wasn’t connecting with the graduates and that they may be thinking “she doesn’t have a clue what I’ve been through.”

Reynolds said she went off script and spoke about her background as a recovering alcoholic, getting a degree later in life, helping to raise seven grandchildren, and then running for public office.

“I can tell you, these are two tough women — I’m relatively scared of both of them,” said Kaufmann, to laughs from the approximate 100-person audience.

Ernst and Reynolds described working with Trump and other men in leadership in Washington. Reynolds said that for her office, the Trump administration has been one of the most accessible, and she has traveled to the White House many times for roundtable discussions. In September, Reynolds visited the White House to talk with the president about renewable fuels.

Ernst said working with leadership in Washington. is not always easy, and she sometimes disagrees with Trump on issues relating to Iowa. She said that while he doesn’t like being told “no,” he can often be reasoned with.

She told a story about a meeting involving her and other members of Republican leadership, including leaders from oil industries, union members, and Trump. Ernst said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was talking so much that the union members were not getting a chance to speak, and Ernst said she slapped her hand on the table and told Cruz to “shut up.”

“You really do have to be a little bit aggressive and get their attention every once in a while, and we have to do this with the president on some of these issues, too,” Ernst said.

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