INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana congressman who was rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the top Republican for the committee investigating last year’s U.S. Capitol insurrection is fending off an effort to remove his name from this year's election ballot.
The challenge to Rep. Jim Banks’ candidacy is at least the second across the country against a Republican House member citing a portion of a post-Civil War amendment to the U.S. Constitution pertaining to insurrections against the United States.
Banks, an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump and leader of the influential Republican Study Committee, has denounced the ballot challenge as frivolous.
It was filed by a long-shot Democratic candidate for Banks’ congressional seat and likely has little chance of success when it goes before the state election commission on Friday, a former longtime commission member said.
A similar challenge is pending against North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who spoke at the rally supporting Trump before the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot that interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
The Indiana challenge petition filed by Democrat Aaron Calkins claims Banks is ineligible to be a candidate because of a “violation of the 14th Amendment supporting an insurrection.” The filing with the state election commission didn’t include additional information supporting the claim against Banks and Calkins didn’t return a telephone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
The 14th Amendment says no one can serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress ... to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
Banks, who is seeking reelection from a heavily Republican northeastern Indiana district he first won in 2016, criticized the ballot challenge as a “bogus theory” among Democrats against Republicans like himself who voted in the hours after the siege to overturn Biden's Electoral College win.
“This is a joke allegation that will be quickly dismissed and ignored by voters in northeast Indiana,” Banks said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Democrats have tried to turn a serious tragedy into a political tool to strip Americans of their civil liberties and even their right to vote for their preferred candidate.”
The state Democratic Party isn’t involved in the challenge to Banks, spokesman Drew Anderson said.
Anthony Long, a lawyer who was a Democratic member of Indiana’s election commission for more than 20 years before stepping down in 2021, said he did not know of any similar previous challenges to congressional candidates.
Long said the eligibility challenge was likely outside the commission’s authority and believed it would likely be a question for Congress or federal courts to decide.
“I think we have to enforce the Indiana election code,” Long said. “I doubt if they’ll get very far here.”
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy picked Banks last July as the top Republican on the House Jan. 6 investigation committee. Pelosi cited the “integrity” of the probe in rejecting Banks, which was followed by House GOP leadership boycotting the panel.
Allen Carter, a spokesman for the Indiana Election Division, said Calkins will have to make his case before the four-member election commission, which is split 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats. A majority vote by the commission is needed to remove any candidate from the Indiana ballot.
“There won’t be any additional outside investigation of this, not from us,” Carter said.