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URBANDALE, Iowa — Iowa Democrats have been dogging U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, with charges she is “extreme” for wanting to privatize part of people’s social security benefits. Ernst returned to the campaign trail Monday to answer those charges.

Ernst had been away from campaigning for the past two weeks as part of a training exercise due to her role as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard.

Asked whether her positions are extreme, Ernst responded, “Oh, for heaven’s sake. I am not extreme.”

Ernst continued, “I will tell you that we have an issue with social security. And believe me, my parents are on social security right now. We have promises to our seniors. We have to make sure we keep those promises.”

Ernst wants to allow people to invest part of their social security retirement savings in the stock market as a way to potentially earn more money and reduce the burden on the country’s safety net system. However, she couldn’t provide specifics on what percentage of those benefits she would allow people to invest or at what age she would guarantee the current system’s benefits. Ernst said, “I would have to look further into that. But we know that we have to come up with those solutions. And these are some solutions that I would look for when I’m the next United States senator.”

When asked what changes her opponent, Democrat Bruce Braley, a congressman from Brooklyn, would make to further guarantee social security’s solvency, his campaign responded with an emailed statement,”Bruce Braley has stood against risky privatization schemes, opposed and stopped cuts to Iowa Social Security services and benefits, and supports raising the minimum wage, which would strengthen Social Security.”

Some social security actuaries have estimated the system will no longer be able to pay out full benefits to recipients after 2033, unless congress makes changes.