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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette: Congressman-elect Jim Banks holds daughter Annie, 3, as he thanks supporters at the GOP party Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016 10:46 pm

Banks romps to congressional victory

Brian Francisco | Washington Editor

Republican state Sen. Jim Banks easily won election Tuesday to become the next congressman for northeast Indiana.

As expected in the GOP-dominated region, Banks romped past Democrat Tommy Schrader and Libertarian Pepper Snyder in each of the 3rd District's dozen counties.

Banks was attracting more than 70 percent of the vote in some 3rd District counties, and he captured 62 percent in early returns in Allen County, the largest county in the district.

Schrader was getting 31 percent in Allen but was only in the high teens in other counties. Snyder appeared to be drawing about 7 percent of the vote.

The Columbia City resident will replace third-term Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Howe, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat in the May primary election. By most appearances, Banks figures to be as fiscally and socially conservative as Stutzman has been.

He said Tuesday evening that he wants to apply "conservative principles to advance our country" and that his experience in a Republican-run state legislature "provides a roadmap that I hope to take to Washington." But he also said the country's problems require bipartisan answers from Congress.

"I want to be part of a new generation of representatives in Washington, D.C., who are solutions-oriented, who are focused on results and tackling the issues that face our nation," Banks, 37, said in a phone interview. "These aren't partisan issues – a nineteen-and-a-half trillion dollar national debt was created by politicians from both parties. It's going to take representatives from both parties to dig us out of that hole.

"Issues like rebuilding the military and addressing the national security issues that we face, that will take bipartisan support to accomplish," he said.

Banks' easy victory was a foregone conclusion: Voting trends show that Indiana's 3rd District is the most Republican of the state's nine congressional districts. The region has been represented continuously by GOP lawmakers since 1995, and it typically gives the election winner at least 62 percent of the vote.

As a result of the partisan metrics --– plus the fact that Democrats inexplicably nominated Schrader, an unemployed perennial candidate --– Banks was able to run an upbeat, biography-driven campaign.

The commercial real estate broker played up his humble childhood, cute-as-a-button family and deployment to Afghanistan in 2014-15 as a member of the Navy Reserve --– but made sure to let voters know that he supports religious liberty and tax cuts and opposes abortion rights.

"I'm very proud of the positive campaign that I've waged, both in the primary and in the general election.... I didn't focus on my opponents in the primary, I didn't focus on my opponents in the general election, I focused on issues and ideas to move the country forward. I believe that resonated in the midst of negative, nasty commercials for races all up and down the ballot," Banks said.

Various conservative advocacy organizations issued congratulations to Banks on Tuesday night.

Former Indiana congressman David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, said in a statement that Banks "is a proven fiscal conservative who will fight for a pro-growth agenda, and who will be an excellent Hoosier Congressman.""

Adam Brandon, chairman of FreedomWorks, said Tuesday in a statement that Banks "is slated to join the ranks of the House Freedom Caucus" -- the most conservative subgroup of congressional Republicans, which has included Stutzman –-- and "will fight for pro-growth economic solutions that will reduce tax burdens, cut spending, and slash the red tape that is strangling businesses."

bfrancisco@jg.net