Washington insiders are more than a little peeved at Congressional conservatives who have rejected the status quo and pushed House and Senate Republicans to govern according to their campaign promises. One man who wants to continue that shakeup is Jim Banks, an Indiana state senator and Afghan War veteran with an impressive resume and record of conservative accomplishment. Running in Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District to replace incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001188′ ], who is running for the GOP nomination in Indiana’s open U.S. Senate race, Banks is facing a challenge from three other Republicans, all of whom can afford to self-fund, but none of whom have a consistent conservative record.
As a state lawmaker, Banks’ voting record put him to the right of his fellow Indiana Senate colleagues, earning the most conservative score of any of them on Americans for Prosperity – Indiana’s economic freedom scorecard.
Despite his deep ties to the conservative grassroots in northeast Indiana and his impeccable credentials in Indianapolis, Banks is in a four-way primary facing a self-funding doctor who fled Wisconsin after being challenged in a recall election, a wealthy farmer who loves federal subsidies, and a fellow state senator who voted to raise taxes as a local elected official.
It is the farmer, Kip Tom, who arguably presents the most formidable challenge to Banks. Farming over 20,000 acres according a New York Times interview, Tom claims he is “hooked on a drug of information and productivity.”
Kip Tom is also hooked an another kind of drug: farm subsidies.
Between 1995 and 2012, Tom, through his various farms that he owns or co-owns, collected $3,277,953.97 in federal farm subsidies. According to Environmental Working Group, which tracks farm subsidies, Tom Farms Partners took $2,391,767.97 over that time. Tom Farms LLC took $667,732.40 in taxpayer money, and GroServe Partners, a related business interest, collected $193,122 in subsides for those 17 years. Kip Tom himself took $25,332 in federal farm aid.
IN-03 has elected a farmer who took subsidies, but never one who made this much money on handouts from taxpayers. Rep. Stutzman was criticized for taking at least $200,000 in farm subsidies even though he went on to oppose federal farm subsidies and food stamps that are usually included in the so-called “farm bill.” To his credit, Stutzman did fight to eliminate the perks.
Although Banks faces a threat from Tom and the other candidates, it isn’t hard for him to distinguish himself in the race. Not only is his state Senate record impervious to criticism from the right, but as a veteran he can rightfully point out that his election would make him part of a small but growing and important minority in Congress. Veterans made up 64% of Congress in 1981, but today only 18% of members of Congress have military experience. As Congress debates defense appropriations, and exercises oversight over the military and foreign policy, members with military experience have a unique perspective to contribute.
With the primary next May, Banks’ success in landing endorsements from conservative groups like The Madison Project and conservative leaders like Nebraska [mc_name name=’Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S001197′ ] (R) are giving him a vital edge.