Two Republican state senators have revealed plans to run for the northeast Indiana seat in the U.S. House.
Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, announced his candidacy Tuesday afternoon at a jam-packed Allen County Republican Party Headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne.
Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, earlier posted her intentions on her website, lizbrown.us. In three places at the top of the site are variations of the phrase "Liz Brown for U.S. Congress." Brown writes that she will disclose details May 27.
On Monday, Republican Pam Galloway of Warsaw, a former Wisconsin state senator, said in a written statement and telephone interview that she will seek the seat occupied by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd.
Stutzman announced Saturday that he will run for a U.S. Senate seat in next year’s elections.
Banks received what could be a huge boost Tuesday with a public endorsement by Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. Long, who introduced Banks at the local GOP headquarters, said the 3rd District representative must understand the U.S. Constitution and states’ rights, oppose abortion rights, be a fiscal conservative, have experience balancing a government budget and be able to work with other lawmakers.
"In Jim Banks, we have a person who has all of these characteristics and more," Long said.
Banks, 35, had placed a pair of his combat boots on the stage where he spoke. The U.S. Navy Reserve officer told the crowd about his recent eight-month deployment to Afghanistan as a supply corps officer.
He pledged to advocate for a stronger national defense and to help military veterans who receive benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"We will talk about cleaning up the bureaucratic mess that is the VA. We will talk about supporting our troops and strengthening our military that has been weakened by the current administration," Banks said.
"We will talk about creating jobs right here in the 3rd Congressional District by once and for all ending the medical device tax and by protecting and growing the 122nd Fighter Wing," he said.
The 122nd Fighter Wing is the Air National Guard base on the far south side of Fort Wayne. The 2.3 percent medical device tax, which funds the federal Affordable Care Act, is paid by orthopedic device manufacturers in the 3rd District.
On her website, Brown, 56, wrote: "Our lawmakers have failed to respond to the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st Century. It’s time to reshape our economy, reaffirm our role as a global leader and defend family values." A spokeswoman for Brown’s congressional campaign said she was unavailable Tuesday for an interview.
Brown was elected to the state Senate from District 15 in 2014. She was a member of the Fort Wayne City Council from 2008 through 2011, when she sought the Republican nomination for mayor in 2011.
In 2010, she finished a distant third in a field of 15 Republican candidates competing to fill the ballot vacancy created by the resignation of Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd. Stutzman, then a state senator from LaGrange County, won the GOP caucus vote, that year’s general election and primary and general elections in 2012 and 2014.
Banks was elected to the state Senate from District 17 in 2010 and was re-elected last year. His wife, Amanda Banks, replaced him at this year’s legislative session while he was deployed in Afghanistan. Jim Banks is a former member of the Whitley County Council and a former chairman of the Whitley County Republican Party.
He is a commercial real estate broker, Brown is a civil and domestic mediator, and Galloway, 59, is a retired physician.
Also Tuesday, corn and soybean farmer Kip Tom of Leesburg in Kosciusko County posted on his Facebook page that he is "very seriously considering running for Congress in 2016" in the 3rd District. Tom is a member of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
"We expect many more candidates," Banks told reporters after his own announcement.
This game of political musical chairs was set in motion March 24 when Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., announced that he will not seek a second consecutive term in 2016.
Two days later, Eric Holcomb, a former Indiana Republican Party chairman, announced that he will run for Coats’ seat, followed by Stutzman’s declaration Saturday.
A member of Congress earns $174,000 a year. Indiana’s heavily Republican 3rd District comprises all or parts of a dozen counties in northeast Indiana.