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Tuesday, October 09, 2018 1:00 am

Tritch says partisanship hurts nation

Criticizes Banks' votes on tax breaks, privatizing VA

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Democratic congressional candidate Courtney Tritch said Monday that political partisanship is paralyzing the federal government.

“I have been shocked and appalled by what is happening in our country. And if we continue on this road of being the red team and the blue team, the American team is going to suffer. Nothing is getting done,” Tritch told the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne. Many people in attendance applauded.

“It is not about partisanship to me. It never has and never will be. It is about making the right decisions for people,” she said during the club's weekly meeting at Parkview Field.

“And I have been very intentional about meeting voters wherever they are, wherever they are and whatever part of the district, anyone who is willing to talk with me,” she said.

Tritch, a Fort Wayne marketing consultant, is challenging first-term Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Columbia City for northeast Indiana's 3rd District seat in the U.S. House. Banks is scheduled to speak next Monday to the Rotary Club.

Tritch criticized the incumbent without naming him, referring to Banks repeatedly as “my opponent.” 

She said Banks had voted for legislation in 2017 that would have eliminated federal tax breaks that are helping finance the planned renovation of the former General Electric campus in Fort Wayne. The Electric Works project “would have tanked” were it not for the New Markets Tax Credits and the Historic Tax Credit, said Tritch, a former vice president for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, an economic development group.

Tritch said Banks had supported legislation that would have reduced U.S. immigration levels. Immigrants, she said, are responsible for a fourth of northeast Indiana's population growth in recent years.

She said Banks appears to favor increased privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs even as veterans “go out of their way to tell me that's absolutely not what they want.” 

She contended that Banks “has gone out of his way to smear my name” by trying to link her to the Democratic “machine” in Chicago and liberals in California. She said her campaign has the third-highest percentage of in-district financial contributions among the nation's congressional candidates and that Banks' campaign is financed “primarily” by political action committees.

Banks said later in a telephone interview that Tritch was “trying to spin my record to be something that it isn't.”

He said he voted for the final tax-cuts legislation that preserved the New Markets Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credit and that his vote for an earlier version that did not was based on his belief that “tax cuts should be across the board for everybody. We shouldn't carve out different exceptions.”

Banks said he has backed a bill to end chain migration for families and replace the visa lottery with a merit-based immigration system. 

“I agree that we need to continue to allow legal immigration to our region,” he said, adding that Tritch “supports amnesty, and she is against deporting criminal illegal aliens.”

As for her claim that he favors privatizing veterans services, Banks said he voted for “the largest budget ever for the VA” and chairs a House Veterans' Affairs subcommittee overseeing a $15 billion modernization of VA health care records. He said he does like the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to obtain health care services from private providers at VA expense.

“Almost every veteran that I talk to agrees that sometimes Parkview or Lutheran (medical networks) might be able to serve them better than the VA hospital, and that's what the Choice Program allows them to do,” he said.

Banks, a former commercial real estate broker, said the majority of his campaign contributions have been from individual donors. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that since the 2016 election cycle began, roughly 70 percent of his donations came from individuals through June – a number that shrinks to 48 percent for his re-election campaign cycle. A third-quarter campaign finance report will be released soon.

“It's very clear at the end of the day she supported Bernie Sanders and the left wing of the Democrat Party,” Banks said, referring to the liberal Vermont senator who ran for president in 2016. “My conservative record and voting record speaks for itself.” 

About 75 people attended the Rotary Club meeting. Audience members asked Tritch her thoughts on:

• The Senate's 50-48 confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who had been accused of sexual assault when he was a teenager.

“I have concerns that we are not listening to women's voices in this country,” Tritch said. She said that from watching Kavanaugh testify Sept. 27 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I did not feel he that was exhibiting judicial temperament. I felt that he said a lot of partisan things that made me very concerned.”

• Whether she would vote to impeach Kavanaugh.

“So, I don't think there's any way for me to answer that having not had access to that FBI report” on allegations against Kavanaugh, she said. “I don't know enough.”

• How many terms she would serve in Congress.

“As long as the people in this district wanted me to be” there, Tritch said.

• What House committees she would want to be on in the House.

Tritch chose the House Education and Workforce Committee – of which Banks is a member. “There is so much that can be done, especially as we look at college debt spiraling out of control,” she said.

bfrancisco@jg.net