Joni Ernst Challenges Tom Cotton For Senate GOP Conference Chair

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

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Mary Lou Masters Contributor
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Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst will run for Senate Republican Conference chair after Sen. Tom Cotton announced his bid last week, Politico reported Monday.

Cotton made the announcement on Tuesday following a series of leadership shakeups from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to step down in November. Ernst, who serves as the Republican Policy Committee chair, told Politico in a Sunday interview that she decided to run for the third-highest GOP leadership role even after colleagues pushed her to make a play for a higher position.

“Absolutely, this is winnable for me. And we shouldn’t be afraid of elections for heaven’s sake,” Ernst told Politico. “I’ve never been the establishment’s chosen candidate. I’ve always been that outsider.” (RELATED: Tom Cotton Throws Hat In Ring For Senate GOP Conference Chair)

Ernst currently holds the fourth-highest position in the Senate Republican leadership. Cotton is not a member of the upper chamber’s elected leadership.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) heads to the Senate floor for a vote on January 23, 2024 in Washington, DC. Negotiations over border security, military aid to Ukraine and Israel, and the government budget continue this week on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 23: U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) heads to the Senate floor for a vote on January 23, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Both Ernst and Cotton were first elected to the upper chamber in 2014. Ernst is also the ranking member on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, while Cotton holds the same position on the Air Land Power Subcommittee.

“Republicans want to see someone that doesn’t just get told how to vote, but someone that can be an independent thinker and provide a voice to reason and to truth … I’m ready to take that on,” Ernst told Politico.

Republican Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who currently serves as Senate GOP Conference Chair, announced on Tuesday he’d run for Senate Minority Whip after speculation he’d run to succeed McConnell. Senate Minority Whip John Thune and Texas Sen. John Cornyn are running for the top leadership position.

Cotton did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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