WASHINGTON, D.C. -- There's no way to miss it when you walk into Joni Ernst's temporary U.S. Senate office in the Hart Senate Office building in Washington, D.C. It stands on all fours right on her desk. And it measures about two feet long. It's a giant pig. Not real, of course. But it represents a very real moment from her winning campaign.
"Thought it was hilarious," Ernst said Monday night, hours before she would take the oath to become Iowa's first female member in Washington.
Ernst found national acclaim with her "Make 'Em Squeal" ad during her Republican primary campaign, when she promised to cut the pork (the spending kind) in Washington, much like she used to cut the pork (the hog body part kind) back on the farm in southwest Iowa.
Ernst said she found the pig during a campaign stop in LeMars, the home of Blue Bunny ice cream. "It is a chalkboard. You take chalk. You write messages on it," Ernst said.
She said she would put messages about important issues to remember on it throughout the campaign. The pig stood blank with nothing to say. But Ernst said that will change after she gets sworn in. "As we have certain issues that come up, we will use the pig," she laughed.
The pig is just one of the Iowa mementos she brought with her to Washington, D.C. Other items in her office:
A picture of the Montgomery County courthouse--Ernst formerly served as the county auditor there. "Love that," she said of the framed remembrance, "Reminds me of home."
A certificate recognizing her service in the Iowa National Guard--Ernst, who is a lieutenant colonel, said she will try to keep fulfilling her guard duties after she begins work as a U.S. Senator. "I'm going to try to maintain both, at least for a few months. And see how the process goes," she said.
Ernst said she doesn't expect to find out where her permanent senate office will be until May as the senate assigns the offices based on seniority.
Some people near the U.S. Capitol had heard of Ernst. Most had not. Although some say they had heard of the castration ad. However, they weren't all convinced that ad would play to a national audience.
Other passersby expressed hope Ernst could bring change to Washington, a place they agree needs to better serve the American people. But some had concerns that Washington has a way of changing people.