Former Iowa Gov. Vilsack won't challenge Ernst for Senate in 2020

Former Iowa Gov. Vilsack won't challenge Ernst for Senate in 2020
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Former Iowa Gov. Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE (D) will not challenge Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Progressive group backs Senate candidates in Georgia, Iowa MORE (R-Iowa) for her Senate seat in 2020, according to two people familiar with the decision, putting to rest months of speculation of a possible campaign.

Vilsack’s decision was first reported Friday by the Des Moines Register. Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, and Democratic strategist Matt Paul confirmed the decision to The Hill.

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If he had launched a Senate bid, Vilsack would have entered the Senate race with an outsize public profile. In addition to serving as governor, he served for eight years as former President Obama’s Agriculture secretary.

A recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll found that 53 percent of Iowans view Vilsack favorably. Among Democrats in that poll, 69 percent said they have a favorable opinion of the former governor.

His decision to forego a Senate run leaves a wide open Democratic field.

Among those seen as potential contenders are Democrat J.D. Scholten, who mounted a competitive but unsuccessful bid against Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingMother of child in viral meme sends Steve King cease-and-desist for using image in fundraising Nebraska Democratic Party Chair: Rural vote should be 'bedrock' of party With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response MORE (R-Iowa) in 2018, and Theresa Greenfield, who ran in the Democratic primary for Iowa’s 3rd District last year but ultimately did not make it on the ballot.

Ernst, a first-term senator, is up for reelection in 2020, and Democrats see her seat as part of a potential pathway to retaking a Senate majority. She’s one of nearly two dozen Republican senators facing reelection next year.

--Updated at 3:50 p.m.