Joni Ernst beats Bruce Braley to win U.S. Senate - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Joni Ernst beats Bruce Braley to win U.S. Senate

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Joni Ernst Joni Ernst
WEST DES MOINES (KWWL) - Iowa has turned a longtime Senate seat red, tipped the balance in the U.S. Senate and elected its first female U.S. senator in state history.

State Sen. Joni Ernst is now U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, toppling U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, who was widely thought of as a shoe-in for the seat just months ago.

NBC News called the race for Ernst as her lead widens against Braley as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

Ernst celebrated the win with supporters and Gov. Terry Branstad at the West Des Moines Marriott.

Both of Iowa's seats in the U.S. Senate now belong to the GOP for the first time since 1985.

Ernst's win also makes her the very first female to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Iowa, a dubious distinction Iowa shared with just one other state -- Mississippi.

The seat came open when longtime U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat, announced his retirement.

Braley announced he would run, and many high-profile Iowa Republicans declined to run against him, assuming the seat was a lock with his name attached.

Ernst appeared on a crowded, unknown Republican primary ballot, but shot ahead in polls after memorable campaign ads featuring pigs and guns. Her most famous -- the one that got her national attention -- equated castrating hogs with "cutting the pork" in Washington, D.C., and featured the slogan, "Let's make 'em squeal."

With her convincing primary win, national Republican groups hustled to get behind her, particularly after a Braley gaffe in which he implied that farmers shouldn't be chairing certain congressional campaigns at a campaign event in Texas.

Millions of dollars were pumped into both campaigns in recent weeks, and Ernst began rising in the polls even as Braley continued to book high-profile guests for his campaign stops like Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
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