'Conservative' U.S. Senate candidate John Rust blocked from Indiana GOP primary ballot due to history of voting in Democratic primary elections

 February 28, 2024

Democrats have been trying with limited success to have former President Donald Trump removed from Republican primary ballots in various states, but now have received a dose of their own medicine.

The bipartisan Indiana Election Commission ruled unanimously on Tuesday to block John Rust, a would-be Republican Senate candidate with a long history of voting for Democrats, from appearing on the Hoosier State's GOP primary ballot in May, Breitbart reported.

That decision means staunch conservative Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who has been endorsed by Trump and the Indiana GOP, will appear unopposed on the ballot as the sole Republican candidate to replace outgoing Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) in May's primary election.

History of voting in Democratic primary elections

The news was first shared by State Affairs Indiana journalist Tom Davies, who reported in an X post, "BREAKING: U.S. Senate candidate John Rust removed from Republican primary ballot by Indiana Election Commission. Unanimous decision found Rust didn’t meet state’s two-primary voting requirement that he’s fought in court. Vote leaves Jim Banks as the only GOP candidate."

As alluded to by Davies, Indiana has a statute that requires candidates to have voted in the past two primary elections of the party they seek to represent, or obtain certification from a county party chair, to qualify for the ballot.

Breitbart noted that Rust, a wealthy egg farmer, did vote in Indiana's 2016 GOP primary, but before that voted in the state's Democratic primaries in 2012, 2010, 2008, and 2006. There doesn't appear to be any record of his voting in the 2004 cycle or earlier until 1996, which was the last time he voted in a Republican primary contest.

Unanimous vote by election commission

The Indiana Capital Chronicle reported ruled that the bipartisan four-member Indiana Election Commission voted unanimously to bar Rust from appearing on the upcoming May GOP primary ballot as a Republican U.S. Senate candidate because of the rule stipulating that the two most recent votes in primary elections must be for the same party a candidate was running for, as well as because Jackson County Republican Party Chair Amanda Lowery had declined to grant Rust a certification to bypass that requirement.

Rust claimed the "disappointing" vote was the result of a rigged process by the Indiana GOP to "keep me off the ballot because I’m not under their control," but the commissioners said it was a problem of his own creation, as he could have voted in any of the several GOP primary elections since 2016 -- he claimed he missed 2020 because of the pandemic but had no excuse for 2018 or 2022 -- or moved to another county with a "friendlier" party chair that might've certified him.

Interestingly enough, Democratic Commissioner Suzannah Wilson Overholt said that Rust "could have done all kinds of things … he could have played by the rules," and added, "If you want to run as a candidate in this state, there are rules you have to follow."

Rust vowed to appeal the ruling, first to the Marion County Superior Court, but potentially all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, though it is unclear if there is enough time for all of that to occur before the election takes place in May.

He would have to make it past the Indiana Supreme Court first to do so, and that seems unlikely given an Associated Press report less than two weeks ago about how the state's highest court had issued a stay to block a lower court's ruling that would have allowed Rust to appear on the primary ballot despite not meeting the law's past two primary votes requirement for qualification.

Rust claimed "political insiders" worked to "rig our election" and "predetermined" the hearing's outcome

Following the commission's ruling, Rust issued a statement that said, "Today proved that the political insiders are continuing to rig our election. It’s this kind of disregard for Hoosiers that inspired me to run for the U.S. Senate in the first place."

"We will be appealing this all the way up to the United States Supreme Court if necessary," he added. "Especially considering this hearing had a predetermined outcome. I will never stop fighting for Hoosiers."

Ironically, Rust's press release described him as a "conservative businessman," but that self-ascribed label doesn't square with his history of voting in numerous Democratic primary elections for a lengthy continuous stretch but only two Republican primary elections separated by two decades.

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