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Banks and Rust exchange blows


Banks and Rust exchange blows

Oct 03, 2023 | 2:00 pm ET
By Casey Smith
Banks and Rust exchange blows
Republican Senate candidate called out Jim Banks in new radio and tv ads airing statewide. (Screenshot from campaign video)

U.S. Senate GOP candidate John Rust released radio and television ads this week depicting opponent Jim Banks as a D.C. swamp insider.

And Third District Congressman Banks wasted no time firing back with this news release headline: Fat Cat Democrat Swindler Buying Indiana Senate Seat with Hoosiers’ Stolen Cash.

Banks said Rust bought $250,000 of advertisements across Indiana. Rust did not confirm how much was spent.

“John Rust is a longtime Democrat voter and a millionaire egg empire heir trying to run as a Republican. He does not share our conservative Hoosier values,” Banks said. “In just two months Rust has used over $1 million dollars that he obtained by gouging working class Hoosier families in an attempt to buy Indiana’s Senate seat. I am calling on crooked John Rust to immediately return the money he made ripping off innocent Hoosiers by inflating the price of eggs during a pandemic.”

Rusts’s family egg business, Rose Acre Farms, faces allegations of illegally colluding with other egg producers in a scheme to increase the price of eggs while Hoosiers were struggling to make ends meet due to record inflation. That legal fight is ongoing.

Rust told the Indiana Capital Chronicle on Tuesday that the ad, titled “Stooge,” intends to “(shed) light on the damage career politicians like Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, and Nancy Pelosi are having on the nation.”

“Jim Banks has proven himself to be a Mitch McConnell loyalist, and is relying on the insider machine to keep John Rust off the ballot and placed in the Senate,” Rust’s campaign said in a statement. “There is no doubt that Jim Banks is Mitch McConnell’s handpicked stooge.”

Playing the insider card

The minute-long radio ad paid for by Rust accuses Banks —  along with U.S. Senate GOP leader McConnell — of focusing on “keeping power for themselves.” Rust, meanwhile, maintains he is “focused on putting Indiana first.”

“Next year, Indiana Republicans will have the choice to pick our next U.S. senator. But if it’s up to Mitch McConnell and the D.C. swamp, we’ll have no choice. The Washington elite and political insiders are trying to rig this election for their handpicked, career politician ally Jim Banks,” the ad says. “That’s why conservative businessman and Indiana farmer John Rust has stepped up to fight for us. As a lifelong conservative, John believes we need an outsider’s voice that’s focused on Hoosiers.”

The ad continues, emphasizing that Rust is “committed to fighting the woke liberal mob, defending seniors by protecting Social Security and creating an economy that works for middle class families — not D.C. insiders.”

“Career politicians like Jim Banks are always talking about solving problems,” Rust’s ad says. “But we can trust businessmen like John Rust to actually get the job done.”

Still, Rust doesn’t qualify to run as a Republican based only on his primary voting history, meaning he needs additional approval from his county party chair. Jackson County Republican Party Chair Amanda Lowery told the IndyStar she will not do so.

Challenging the law

Rust then filed a lawsuit last month in an effort to get his name on the May 2024 primary ballot. He maintains that a current Indiana law blocking him from the ballot is unconstitutional.

Rust voted in the Republican primary in 2016 but did not vote in 2020, according to the lawsuit.

An absence of voting in the 2020 and 2022 primaries does not affect a person’s eligibility under the statue. The law indicates a potential candidate’s last two primary votes need to have been cast in the same party’s primary that they’re running in — whenever that might have been — meaning they could miss party primaries and still qualify.

Rust needs a waiver because the last two primaries he voted in were Republican in 2016 and Democrat in 2012.

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“It’s been clear from the beginning that Jim Banks is Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate. They have been doing everything in their power to ensure that Hoosiers don’t have a choice in the Republican Primary,” Rust’s campaign said Tuesday. “That’s why they are fighting so hard to keep me off the ballot and mobilize the establishment to push Jim Banks into the Senate. Our nation is facing too many critical issues to just let another career politician jump from the House to the Senate. Indiana deserves a Senator that’s working for them, not Mitch McConnell.”

“If elected, is Jim Banks going to vote for Mitch McConnell to remain the GOP leader in the Senate?” Rust’s campaign continued. “I’ve been waiting for an answer on this, but there’s been nothing but silence from Jim Banks.”

Banks has already earned an endorsement from the Indiana Republican Party for his 2024 U.S. Senate bid — marking the first time in recent history that the state party has made an endorsement before primary elections for an open seat.

Banks additionally maintained on Tuesday that Rust “is an Obama supporter who voted Democrat in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 and now opposes President Trump.”

Banks touted, too, that since he announced his bid for the Senate seat in January, he has since earned the support from Trump “and amassed over 300 endorsements from Indiana leaders representing every one of Indiana’s 92 counties.”