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CEDAR RAPIDS — Bring it on.

That’s Sen. Joni Ernst’s way of welcoming anyone — Democrat or Republican — who wants to challenge her re-election in 2020.

“I am running again,” she said during a conference call with reporters Friday. “So anyone who would like to step up and enter into that race, I say bring it on.”

There seemed to be little doubt from the Red Oak Republican who was elected to the United States Senate in 2014 to succeed Democrat Tom Harkin.

In her four years in the Senate, Ernst, a retired Iowa Army National Guard officer, has been vocal in support of the military but also joined with Democratic female senators to support changes in how sexual assaults in the armed forces are handled. She’s backed efforts to expand markets for ethanol. More recently she’s offered recommendations for improving the congressional budgeting process.

Ernst has quickly raised her profile among freshmen senators and recently was elected vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference, becoming the first woman to be elected to a Senate GOP leadership position since 2010.

“I ran for the vice chair position within our Republican leadership because we had no Republican women represented in leadership,” she said. “Our leadership teams should be reflective of our bodies.”

Ernst, who was the first Iowa woman elected to Congress, went on to encourage women to run for office. Two women — Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne in Iowa’s 1st and 3rd congressional districts, respectively — were elected to the U.S. House in November.

“If you have a passion for serving the people and working on policy, then perhaps public office is for you,” Ernst said. “If you have a passion, I say do it.”

Referring to studies that have shown women need to be asked several times before they run for office, Ernst said “Don’t wait for someone else to say ‘run.’”

And like her counterpart, GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, Ernst said she won’t support any Republican challenging President Donald Trump for the 2020 nomination.

“He is our sitting president. His policies are working for the United States,” she said, adding that she sees “a solid path forward with President Trump.”

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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