U.S. Sen. candidate Joni Ernst brought her pal, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, to Iowa City Wednesday for a campaign event that was marred by multiple protesters who interrupted their speeches on the steps outside Gilmore Hall on the University of Iowa campus.
Right before the candidates arrived, the event was pushed outside. Shouting “Raise the minimum wage,” and “Women are watching,” several in the crowd stayed after the event to argue about women’s rights. Ernst, a pro-life candidate who supports a federal “personhood amendment,” has received criticism from some Iowans for her conservative views on social issues.
After several interruptions, Ernst supporters began to chant “We love you Joni,” to drown out the opposition.
Over 100 people, including second district candidate for U.S. House Mariannette Miller-Meeks, stood outside for the brief event.
Former Hawkeye tight end Matt Whitaker introduced Sen. Paul, who said Joni Ernst would make “a much better candidate than ‘Bob Bailey,'” a reference to a mispronunciation by Michelle Obama at an early October Braley event in Des Moines.
Using most of his time to address the right to privacy, the fourth amendment, separating the police from the judiciary, Paul said, “I think we can catch terrorists, but we can do it by obeying the law … I think we can get the information we need, but we don’t need a warrant that says Mr. Verizon on it and gets twenty million, 100 million people’s records in one fell swoop.”
Ernst then spoke about the Iowa families she’d met on her 99-county tour of Iowa, saying, “People believe we are at a crossroads, America is heading in the wrong direction.”
After repeated heckling had derailed her talk, Ernst tried to calm the crowd and said the protesters had a right to speak their minds.
“We have so many different folks here tonight and we all can respect each other,” she said. “We deserve our rights as American citizens and this is something as a member of the Iowa National Guard, I am sworn to uphold our constitution … I will do that. You have the right to protest and others have the right to support me too.”
The Ernst-Braley battle has attracted national attention and together they’ve raised over $30 million. In the third quarter of this year, Ernst took in more money than any other candidate in the country, some $6 million.
Some polls are showing Ernst in a dead heat with Democratic candidate Bruce Braley, the early leader in the race.
If either Ernst or Miller-Meeks are elected, each would be the first woman sent to Washington DC by the state of Iowa, one of only four states (with Delaware, Mississippi, and Vermont) that have never elected a woman for federal office.