Politics

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is projected to win Iowa Senate race

Key Points
  • First-term Republican Sen. Joni Ernst will defeat Democrat Theresa Greenfield, NBC News projected early Wednesday.
  • Ernst faced a serious challenge from Greenfield, who has never before held elected office.
  • The race garnered national attention because of its potential to be one of the few seats that could bring Democrats a majority in the Senate.
Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, speaks during a news conference following the Republican Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.
Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst will win Iowa's Senate race, NBC News projected early Wednesday.

The first-term senator is expected to defeat Democrat Theresa Greenfield, who acknowledged in a statement early Wednesday that she "came up short." In a statement of her own, Ernst said she is "honored by the opportunity to serve Iowa for another 6 years."

The projected result further reduces the chances of Democrats flipping in the Senate in the 2020 election, after the GOP flipped Alabama's Democratic-held Senate seat and notched projected wins in Texas, South Carolina and Kentucky. Democrat John Hickenlooper is projected to defeat Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado, while several other key races are undecided, according to NBC.

At the same time, NBC projected Republican President Donald Trump will defeat Democrat Joe Biden in Iowa.

Ernst faced a serious challenge from Greenfield, who has never before held elected office. She ran for Congress in 2018, but her bid ended after her former campaign manager admitted to forging signatures without her knowledge to get her on the primary ballot and she was unable to make up the signatures in time.

The race garnered national attention because of its potential to be one of the few seats that could bring Democrats a majority in the Senate.

Ernst has been a fairly reliable ally to Trump, whose trade policies have hurt farmers in Iowa. But many farmers have stuck by him as they reason that the short-term pain will benefit them in the end.

The candidates painted the race as one about which person would best represent Iowa in Washington.

Ernst's campaign has attacked Greenfield's for the sizable amount of funds she has received from outside groups it's labeled as "liberal special interest allies."

Greenfield's campaign has pointed to allegations that Ernst's camp has illegally coordinated with so-called dark money groups — political nonprofits that can take unlimited amounts of money without revealing their donors but are required to keep their work separate from candidates.

The Associated Press found in December 2019 that top aides to Ernst had created an outside group that worked closely with her to raise money for her reelection. Based on documents reviewed by the AP, it said the level of overlap could potentially be illegal. A senior advisor to Ernst told the AP at the time that the campaign "is completely separate and independent from any outside organization," and said "For the AP to suggest otherwise, is the definition of fake news."

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Iowa farmer support for Trump support has increased since 2016