It's well known that people tend to view their own representative more favorably than they do Congress as a whole, and that principle almost certainly applies to U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, the personable and hard-working congressman who succeeded Marlin Stutzman two years ago and now is asking voters for a second term.
But the playing field has changed since 2016, when Banks survived a hard-fought Republican primary and won easily against a marginal opponent in the general election. This time, Banks faces Courtney Tritch, a challenger who deserves to be taken seriously. And this time, the incumbent's likability has to be weighed against his role in a decidedly unlikable Republican congressional majority that has failed to effectively and independently represent average Americans.
Though Banks has pushed back against White House policies more than some of his colleagues, he has generally been part of a subservient Congress that passed a budget-busting tax cut weighted toward the rich and allowed the Trump administration to dismantle environmental rules, weaken our health care system, and conduct a reckless and barely comprehensible foreign policy.
Tritch, who has a background in community and economic development, is well aware that she's running in a deeply red district. Rather than engaging in a proxy battle against President Donald Trump, she has tried to run a positive campaign that focuses on issues that matter to Hoosiers.
Tritch's plans for health care illustrate her moderate and independent approach. She would try to control costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, continue expanded access to health care and protect coverage for pre-existing conditions by shoring up the Affordable Care Act instead of taking a wrecking ball to it. On the other hand, Tritch told our editorial board, she rejects the “Medicare for all” concept that some in her party push.
“I know that health care and insurance are two huge, top industries just here in our district – flipping the switch on one-fifth of our economy overnight kind of scares me,” she said. “So I think that having a Medicare option on the exchanges, adding that to the Affordable Care Act, is a really low-risk next step to provide some stability to the exchanges, to provide some cost-control measures because now those other insurers are going to have to compete with that.”
Offering a Medicare option is fiscally responsible, she said, because people who choose it would be paying to enter an efficient system that's already in place. “But if it doesn't work and people don't buy into it, then we haven't lost anything. We haven't changed our economy overnight.”
Tritch would bring the same consensus-building analysis to other issues on which Congress has been paralyzed. On immigration, she endorses strong border security but also emphasizes the vital role legal immigration must play in growing regions such as ours. The larger answer, Tritch says, is to streamline the visa and asylum systems by passing comprehensive reform. Tritch says she is a supporter of the Second Amendment but is open to measures such as strengthening background checks and limiting the magazine capacities of firearms. She wants to make public education a funding priority, strengthen federal support for preschool programs and reduce college debt.
Banks, a Columbia City Republican who previously served in the Indiana Senate, has taken representation of 3rd District interests seriously. A Navy reservist, he has launched and supported a blizzard of proposals on veterans' issues, and he has been an effective advocate for the Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base's 122nd Fighter Wing. Unlike some of his colleagues in Washington, he is well-mannered and generally eschews name-calling.
But Tritch has some experience connecting with people's problems here as well, having spent a dozen years working with the Downtown Improvement District and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. That work – she was one of the team that successfully fought to win a Regional Cities grant for northeast Indiana – has familiarized her with the Fort Wayne area's challenges and needs. She could be a strong, independent-minded representative for this region in Washington.
We endorse Courtney Tritch.