SIOUX CITY — A Navy admiral who retired nearly two years ago has announced he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat held by retired Iowa National Guard soldier Joni Ernst.

“She serves special interests. She doesn’t serve Iowans,” Michael Franken said this morning during an interview with Radio Iowa. “Speak of the gun debate, I mean she’s central to what we don’t want on the hill.”

Franken, a 61-year-old Democrat whose father served in the Navy during World War II, retired as a three-star admiral after a 39 year career in the military. He and his wife bought a house and moved to Sioux City this spring.

“Became re-acclimated, re-glued to a place that really never left my heart, my rural upbringing,” Franken said, “and decided to continue the life of service.

Franken, the youngest of nine children, grew up near Sioux Center. Franken said he was born in a sort of “apolitical, Republican area” of the state, but he’s made a “philosophical transition.”

“My precepts of life and fair play and love for my fellow man and empathy aligned me much more closely with the Democratic Party,” Franken said.

Franken released an announcement video this morning. It mentions that during a critical Pentagon meeting about going to war in Iraq, he voted no.

“Since 9/11, I’ve been involved in nine of the 11 named operations. I think that’s a lot. Some of these we didn’t have to do,” Franken told Radio Iowa. “There were other ways to go about this and I think a more clear-eyed perspective, knowledge-based perspective would have been exceedingly effective at averting war.”

The Navy’s biography for Franken shows he commanded several guided missile destroyers in the U.S. fleet and served in a variety of leadership posts in U.S. military operations in Africa. He has also served as a liaison for the Navy on Capitol Hill.

Franken joins a few other Democrats who’ve announced they’re running for the party’s 2020 nomination for the U.S. Senate and a chance to challenge Ernst’s bid for a second term in the U.S. Senate.

The Iowa GOP’s chairman released a statement, saying Franken has joined a field of Democrats that’s “in a race to the far left, embracing the values of coastal elites.”