EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., on Tuesday accused his primary challenger for Indiana’s open Senate seat of trying "to screw" Indiana families during the height of inflation.
"This fella has a lot of obstacles overcome to actually get on the ballot. But if he does, we'll have a spirited race and talk about the differences between my proven conservative track record and his lifetime of voting for Democrats," Banks said in an interview at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
John Rust, chairman of Rose Acre Farms and a sixth-generation Indiana egg farmer, recently announced a long-shot bid for the spot being vacated by current Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who is running for governor.
Banks has been the favorite in the race for months, having snagged endorsements from a litany of local, state and federal Republicans. He told Fox News Digital that he would "welcome competition" in the race, but did not hesitate to cut deep into his new opponents perceived flaws – including an ongoing lawsuit against Rose Acre Farms and other companies over accusations of price gouging and coordinating to maximize profits.
"I find that to be just disgusting that this guy, and his family, would be a part of a scheme to screw people in Indiana who are trying to put food on the table, and they made it even harder on them during COVID to do that," Banks said. "His business is being sued for it. I'm going to make sure that a guy like that never goes anywhere near the United States Senate."
Rust, who spoke with Fox News Digital last month, said at the time he was a lifelong conservative who only voted for Democrats when he "knew people personally" running in left-wing primaries. His campaign did not immediately respond to Banks’s latest comments.
But Banks is still considered Braun’s likely successor for the deep-red state’s Senate seat. He told Fox News Digital that Indianans want a senator who’s committed to restoring Trump administration policies on China, the border and the economy, among other issues.
"They want a senator to shake it up… hold China accountable, secure our border, rein in wasteful spending, do something about the big issues of the day to save this country. This is a great country, and the Democrats are doing everything that they can to destroy it," he said.
His campaign has also clinched support from former President Donald Trump, the Club For Growth, and the Senate GOP’s campaign arm – factions of the GOP that are diametrically opposed on most issues. That did not "happen overnight," Banks said.
"We've been out criss-crossing the state for several months, building relationships all over Indiana to try to bring the party together – and having President Trump's endorsement goes a long way to bring Republicans on of all stripes to my side to help me win the primary," the lawmaker explained, adding that he also has "nearly 400 endorsements at the local level" across Indiana.
He also pointed out that keeping Indiana’s Senate seat in GOP hands is critical to winning the majority next year, arguing he was best positioned to take that on.
"That's what's most important – to win back the Senate Republican majority, we have to keep Indiana Republican and then go out and beat Democrats in Ohio, West Virginia, Montana, and elsewhere so that we can save this country," Banks said. "And I'm proud to have the support of Republicans – whether they're traditional Republicans, Trump Republicans, conservative Republicans – from all over the state of Indiana to help us get that done."