Joni Ernst Biography

(Junior United States Senator from Iowa Since 2015)

Birthday: July 1, 1970 (Cancer)

Born In: Red Oak, Iowa, United States

American politician and former US military officer Joni Ernst has been a US Senator from Iowa since 2015. She previously served as part of the US military in Kuwait and Iraq, during the Iraq War; won many medals; and retired as a lieutenant general. She was a Member of the Iowa Senate from the 12th district from 2011 to 2014 and the Vice Chair of the Senate Republican Conference from 2019 to 2023. She took over as a US Senator in 2015 and has been part of many Senate committees, too. Raised on a farm, she initially used her rural experience as part of her campaign, along with issues such as the repeal of the PPACA and the abolition of the US Department of Education. She became the first female combat veteran in the US Senate and the first female representative from Iowa in Congress. A mother of one, she has survived a bitter divorce.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Joni Kay Culver

Age: 52 Years, 52 Year Old Females


Spouse/Ex-: Gail Ernst (m. 1992–2019)

father: Richard Culver

mother: Marilyn Culver

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Women

political ideology: Republican

Notable Alumni: Columbus State University, Iowa State University

U.S. State: Iowa

More Facts

education: University Of Iowa, Columbus State University

Early Life & Education

Joni Ernst was born Joni Kay Culver, on July 1, 1970, Red Oak, Montgomery County, southwestern Iowa, US, to Marilyn and Richard Culver. She initially attended the Stanton High School, from where she graduated as a valedictorian. Raised on a farm, she learned the importance of hard work and service from her parents.

In 1992, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Iowa State University, where she had been part of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. She also has a Master of Public Administration degree, obtained from Columbus State University in 1995. In college, she had been part of an agricultural exchange program with the Soviet Union.

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Military Career

Following her graduation from Iowa State University, Joni Ernst joined the U.S. Army Reserves. In 2003-04, she served in Kuwait and Iraq, as a company commander of the 1168th Transportation Company, and led 150 Iowa Army National Guardsmen during Operation Iraqi Freedom (the Iraq War of 2003-11).

She later served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. She retired in 2015, after a 23-year stint in the military.

Her military service earned her many awards, such as the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. In a 2014 interview, she revealed she had been sexually harassed in the military.

Political Career

Joni Ernst worked as the auditor of Montgomery County from 2005 to 2011. In her capacity, she worked to reduce unnecessary government spending and to protect taxpayers’ money. She also served as the local commissioner of elections.

In 2011, she ran in a special senate election for the seat vacated by Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and won. She was elected to the Iowa senate and represented the 12th district. She assumed office on January 5, 2011, and held her seat till November 28, 2014.

A conservative Republican, she fought to nullify federal laws conflicted with states’ rights. In her capacity as a state senator, she balanced the state budget and turned Iowa’s $900 million budget deficit into a surplus of $1 billion.

In 2014, she entered the race for the US Senate. She soon allied with the Tea Party and traditional Republicans, with an aim to win the party’s nomination.

She built a campaign that stressed on her farm experience and promised to bring in a balanced budget amendment, abolish the US Department of Education and the Energy Protection Agency, and repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Ernst emerged victorious and assumed duties as a US Senator from Iowa on January 3, 2015. She also delivered her party’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union, later that month.

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Though she supported Donald Trump’s campaign, during the 2016 presidential election, she had criticized his remarks on women. She was approached to be his running mate but withdrew her name later. After Trump’s win in the general election, she supported most of his policies.

In 2017, Ernst voted for the repeal the PPACA, though the legislation eventually failed. The same year, her efforts passed a significant tax-reform bill.

In 2019, the House of Representatives impeached Trump, based on allegations that he had used a foreign country to investigate a political rival. In February 2020, Ernst voted against conviction in the Senate, and Trump ended up being acquitted.

In March 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed, Ernst lent her support to a $2 trillion relief package. After a close re-election race, Ernst retained her seat in the November 2020 election.

Joni Ernst has also served the US Senate committees for Armed Services, Agriculture, Environment and Public Works, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Nutrition and Forestry. She has also been the Vice Chair of the Senate Republican Conference from 2019 to 2023.

Ernst was not just the first female combat veteran to serve in the US Senate, but also scripted history as the first female representative from Iowa in Congress. In 2017, she was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame.

Ernst does not believe the scientific view on climate change and opposes excessive spending on the same. She has also spoken against net neutrality, which prevents ISPs from gaining full control over internet connections. She has been against a federal minimum wage, too, and believes states should set their respective minimum wages.

She has also stated that same-sex marriages should be a state rights issue, but she has maintained she would vote for a federal ban on it, once proposed. In the Iowa Senate, she co-sponsored a bill to amend the constitution definition of marriage as one between one man and one woman.

Personal Life

In 1992, Joni Ernst married Gail Ernst, an army officer. Gail already had two children from his previous marriage back then.

The couple has a daughter, Libby, their only child together. Libby later served as a cadet at The United States Military Academy at New York’s West Point.

On August 27, 2018, Ernst declared that she was going through divorce proceedings, owing to her husband’s jealousy at her political success. She also accused her husband of verbal and physical abuse.

The couple accused each other of infidelity, too. They finally got divorced in January 2019. Following her divorce, Ernst revealed that was once raped in college.

She has been an active member of the local church, the Mamrelund Lutheran Church in Stanton, Iowa, and a lifetime member of the Montgomery County Republican Party (Women), the National Rifle Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2265, the Montgomery County Court of Honor, and many such organizations.

She is also part of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau. In May 2020, she released her autobiography, Daughter of the Heartland: My Ode to the Country That Raised Me. She still lives in Red Oak.

See the events in life of Joni Ernst in Chronological Order

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