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Banks breaks from the Senate GOP’s well-heeled candidate trend

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There are several Republicans running for the Senate who have sizable net worths and can self-fund to help counteract Democrats’ big financial advantage.

Then there’s Jim Banks.

The Indiana Republican fits a different profile as he seeks the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who is running for governor. We looked at his comparatively modest financial disclosures: He’s got a mortgage, some retirement funds and some savings — just like a lot of his constituents.

“I don’t come from a rich or powerful family, I’m not a self-funder,” Banks said in an interview this week after he coasted to the GOP nomination. “At this point, that’s a rare circumstance [in the Senate] to come from that kind of background.”

“I grew up in a trailer park. That’s where I came from. And what’s incredible about that, is that working-class background is the same background as most people from Indiana,” Banks added. “I come from a place where I can represent the people who elected me to serve them and I think that’s a powerful asset to take to the Senate.”

Indeed, Banks is representative of a Republican Party that shifted toward working-class voters in the Trump era, even as the president’s rhetoric and some of the party’s positions turned off college-educated voters and those in the suburbs. In some ways, Indiana is one of the epicenters of Trump’s appeal: On Election Night in 2016, it was the first state results to roll in showing Trump exceeding expectations — in a place Barack Obama won in 2008 and former Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly won in 2012.

Oh yeah, and Banks was elected that year too.

As a conservative on social and fiscal issues, Banks is certainly in line with other GOP senators he’s likely to serve with. But getting to the Senate is hard for people with young families like Banks, requiring financial dexterity and sacrifice. At 44, he’ll be one of the youngest members of the chamber — and with Sen. Todd Young, 51, they’ll form one of the most youthful tandems in the Senate.

Banks rattled off some of the things that make his personal life, well, kind of normal: He went to a public school and state college, he shops at Walmart and he struggled during the pandemic because he and his wife couldn’t afford full-time childcare. There are several other senators with young families juggling it all to make it work, but it’s certainly not the norm.

“I don’t know that it makes me any different or special,” Banks said. “If that is unique in the Senate, that’s unfortunate. Because it’s the background of where most ‘normal people’ are coming from these days.”

Banks once took an interesting path once he got to Congress. He lost a whip race in the House in 2022, then dove into a Senate race and quickly moved to ice out former Gov. Mitch Daniels. He ended up unopposed for the GOP nomination, and Democrats are defending so many seats elsewhere that they are barely contesting the seat.

Banks will bring a different variety to the chamber, should he win. And if Republicans can manage to take the Senate, the White House and keep the House, he’ll have something to say about the expiring Trump tax cuts.

“If there’s any mistake that we made with tax cuts 2017, it’s that we emphasized permanent corporate tax cuts instead of keeping the individual rates permanent … the emphasis should have been on that. So we can’t make mistakes like that in the future,” Banks said. He added the “impact of those rate changes for working-class families was real. And we’ve got to make those permanent.”