Embarking on a re-election campaign and facing stiff criticism from Democratic challengers vying for her seat, Sen. Joni Ernst will visit Gross-Wen Technologies in Slater on Friday.


Slater is the first stop on the junior senator’s three-county tour that also includes Dallas and Greene Counties.


Ernst is scheduled to visit the recently-opened facility at 10:35 a.m. Friday.


Currently in her first-term Ernst, who was elected in 2016, turned in 23,812 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, which is seven times the minimum 3,337 signatures required to qualify for the ballot.


Over the past few months, Ernst’s vulnerability has been in question, with a report from the Morning Consult showing Ernst with only a 37 percent approval rating among Iowa voters. According to the survey, 42 percent of Iowans disapprove of her as a senator.


The only other senators polling with lower approval ratings, are Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who also hold crucial Senate seats in 2020.


With Republicans holding on to a slim 52-47 majority in the Senate, in addition to Ernst’s seat, Senate seats in Colorado, Maine, Arizona and North Carolina are also seen as a “must-win, must-keep” for both parties.


Ernst kicked off her re-election campaign at her annual Roast and Ride event in June, and said her campaign was aimed to represent all Iowans and their values and “protect the balance between government responsibility and individual liberty.”


With no primary challenger on the Republican side, Ernst will await her Democratic challenger after the June 2 primaries.


The five candidate vying to unseat Ernst are real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, retired Navy admiral Michael Franken, attorney Kimberly Graham, businessman Eddie Mauro and contractor Cal Woods.


All five spoke in an event in Boone on Sunday.