GOP Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) ripped his would-be Democratic challenger Aaron “AJ” Calkins Thursday for attempting to keep Banks off the ballot over his decision to vote against certifying the 2020 election results, calling the gambit “absurd.”
Calkins, who is in a three-way Democratic primary for the right to face Banks in November, filed the challenge with the Indiana Election Commission earlier this week, citing a “violation of the 14th Amendment supporting an insurrection.” A similar challenge was launched in North Carolina against conservative Rep. Madison Cawthornwhere a motion to bar him from running again was filed on Monday.
“They’re challenging my eligibility based on a ridiculous charge that I violated the 14th Amendment and supported an insurrection because of my vote on Jan. 6 to object to how elections were conducted in the 2020 election,” Banks told The Post in an interview.
“We’re seeing this play out with Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina. It’s the same narrative — it’s the same ridiculous narrative that Democrats are pushing to bar President Trump’s eligibility to run for office again. And now Democrats are attacking me and trying to take away not just my right to run for office, but the right of my voters to vote for their preferred choice to represent them in Congress.”
Banks told The Post he has retained an attorney to represent him at a hearing on his ballot eligibility, which is set to take place on Feb. 18.
Banks chairs the 158-member Republican Study Committee, the largest ideological caucus in the House, and is one of former President Donald Trump’s most vocal allies. He claimed Thursday that he believes his support for the 45th president and his opposition to the House select committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot led to the challenge by Calkins.
“I mean, this is another sign of the Democrats weaponizing Jan. 6 against political opponents or anyone who supported President Trump or the Trump agenda,” he said. “Obviously, they’re targeting me because I’ve been a fighter for the Trump agenda. And also I’ve been fighting back against the Democrats’ sham efforts to attack any Republican or Trump supporter whether they were in Washington DC on Jan. 6 or not.”
Members of the select committee have asserted they have only called for testimony from individuals they believe could hold information on the planning of a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally and other events leading up to the siege.
“It’s a joke,” Banks said of the challenge. “Unfortunately, they put me in a position where I have to fight back against it. While it’s a joke, we can’t take it lightly that Democrats are fighting this notion or this charge around the country.”
Banks asserted that he condemns the violence that took place last year and is working to investigate the security failures that took place on the day of the attack.
“I’ve been a part of leading the productive effort to study what happened so that we can do everything I can to make sure that something like Jan. 6 doesn’t happen again,” he said. “But to call me insurrectionist or anyone else who voted to object — I represented my district in how I voted, and I believe strongly that they conducted the elections in many states unconstitutionally and I’ll never back down from that or apologize for that.
“But to argue that I’m not eligible to run for Congress is absurd, and something that should awaken all the all voters around the country to the types of tactics that those who are on the left are pushing against their political enemies.”
If Banks sees off the ballot challenge, he is likely to win reelection to a fourth House term in a safe Republican district.