Michael Franken, Retired Admiral From NW Iowa, Considering Ernst Challenge

A fourth Democrat told Starting Line Wednesday he is considering a run against Sen. Joni Ernst, in a field still taking shape to defeat the incumbent Republican.

Retired Navy Admiral Michael Franken, originally of Sioux Center, a town deep in conservative Northwest Iowa, said he has talked with state and national party leaders about a possible 2020 run at Ernst’s seat.

He recently moved back to Iowa and bought a home in Sioux City. If his family is on board with a campaign, Franken said he could announce his candidacy as early as next month.

“I go to work day one,” said Franken of his familiarity with Capitol Hill and the business of governing. “I’ve had 11 jobs in Washington, D.C, in my career … Experience is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. I get things done.”

Most recently, Franken served as Deputy for Military Operations for U.S. Africa Command, but he also has worked as Chief of Legislative Affairs for the Department of the Navy; Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency; and as a senior military leader in Africa, among several other high-ranking positions.

Three Democratic candidates already are campaigning for Ernst’s Senate seat, including Theresa Greenfield of Des Moines, Eddie Mauro of Des Moines and Kimberly Graham of Indianola.

Ernst, elected in 2014, is running for a second, six-year term. She launched her reelection campaign June 15 in Boone with her Roast and Ride event.

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Greenfield already has lined up support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and many Democratic leaders in the state, a hurdle Franken acknowledged as a challenge, were he to run.

“She’s got a big head start,” Franken said of Greenfield. “But in the general election, I can beat Joni.”

“There’s things we can do in this state that are left undone,” he said. “I bring ideas, which sometimes turn people off, but I tell you what, I’m not an empty suit. In the general election, I’d beat Joni.”

Now a retired Navy admiral, Franken said after 35 years of “thinking on it,” he finally had time to seriously consider a run for public office.

“I did not buy a return ticket to Washington, as a statement of commitment,” Franken said. “I’m buoyed by the people I met in Sioux County last night, and I think the feeling is mutual.”


By Elizabeth Meyer
Franken photo via US Navy, Ernst photo by Julie Fleming
Posted 6/26/19

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