Senate Republican Announces Bid For Conference Chair

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst has decided to throw her hat in the ring when Senate Republicans elect new leadership this fall, The Hill reported.

Ernst, who currently serves as the Republican Policy Committee Chair, will challenge Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton for Republican Conference Chair, the Number Three spot when the GOP elects new leadership for the next Congress.

In a March 10 interview with Politico, Ernst, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, said she had been encouraged by Republican colleagues to seek a higher position in the party’s leadership. After taking a week to consider her options, Ernst decided that conference chair was the best fit for her.

If elected, Ernst would become the highest-ranking female Republican senator in half a century.

Ernst told Politico that while she has never been an establishment candidate, she believed the race for conference chair was “winnable” for her.

The 53-year-old Iowa Republican regularly attends the weekly Republican Senate leadership press conferences as Policy Committee chair.

Current Republican Conference Chair, Wyoming’s John Barrasso, is term-limited and unable to run again. Instead, Barrasso is running for Republican Whip as part of the larger leadership shake-up prompted by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to step down at the end of the year.

Senators John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota are vying to replace McConnell as the GOP Senate leader.

Ernst told Politico that Republican voters would like to see leadership positions go to senators who don’t “just get told how to vote” but are “independent” thinkers who can “provide a voice” of reason and truth.

Senator Cotton first revealed his plan to run for Republican Conference Chair during a March 5 interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. Cotton said he was running to ensure that Republicans were “advocating for conservative ideas and promoting the conservative message across the country.”