Joni Ernst: UCSB Mass Shooting Was ‘Unfortunate Accident,’ GOP Senate Hopeful Says

Joni Ernst, a 43-year-old United States Senate candidate from Iowa who until recently has been best known for a campaign ad in which she discussed “castrating hogs,” dismissed last Friday’s mass shooting in Isla Vista, California as an “unfortunate accident” during a candidates’ debate Thursday.

The remark came in response to a question about her most recent campaign advertisement which features Joni Ernst firing a handgun into the camera and promising to “unload” on Obamacare.

In light of Friday’s mass shooting which claimed six young victims — three by gunfire — as well as the gunman, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, the debate’s moderator asked Joni Ernst if she planned to pull the ad off the air or alter it in any way.

“I would not. No,” Joni Ernst, a current member of Iowa’a National Guard, replied. “This unfortunate accident happened after the ad, but it does highlight that I want to get rid of, repeal, and replace Bruce Braley’s Obamacare,”

Bruce Braley is the likely Democratic opponent for whichever of the five GOP candidates emerges from the Iowa Republican primary. Ernst did not elaborate on the connection between the “accident” in Isla Vista and Obamacare.

Braley’s campaign was quick to pounce on Ernst’s bizarre characterization of the mass shooting.

“She described Santa Barbara as an accident,” said Braley strategist Jeff Link, to The Des Moines Register. “This was a rampage against women with knives and guns.”

Dave O’Brien, a candidate for the Iowa House seat being vacated by Braley, also attacked Joni Ernst for calling the mass shooting an “accident.”

Ernst’s campaign manager shot back, calling the Democratic candidate’s responses “outrageous” for “politicizing and playing gotcha politics with this tragedy.” Derek Flowers noted that in an earlier response, Ernst referred to the Isla Vista mass shooting as “an absolute tragedy.”

In an echo of an essay published earlier in the week by Joe The Plumber, Ernst also said in the debate that “just because of a horrible, horrible tragedy, I don’t believe we should be infringing upon people’s Second Amendment rights.”

Joe The Plumber, aka Samuel Wurzelbacher, had written that the “dead kids” in Isla Vista, murdered by Elliot Rodger with semi-automatic handguns, did not “trump” his own right to own firearms.

Joni Ernst on Friday received an endorsement from 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who said at a campaign appearance for Ersnt, “If you’re to take out a dictionary someday, my guess is you could look up ‘Iowan’ and you’d turn to the page and there’d be a picture of Joni Ernst.”