The Journal Gazette
Sunday, July 19, 2020 1:00 am

Banks easily winning fundraising race

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

The race for northeast Indiana's congressional seat is a runaway when it comes to campaign fundraising.

Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, has raised nearly $793,000 in his bid for a third two-year term in the U.S. House, while Democratic challenger Chip Coldiron has collected just $8,719, according to quarterly finance reports they filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Columbia City resident Banks reported having nearly $264,000 in cash on hand as of June 30. Coldiron, a high school science teacher from Ossian, reported having $4,393 in cash on the same date.

At the same stage of the 2018 campaign, Democratic candidate Courtney Tritch had raised more than $500,000 in campaign contributions and had nearly $312,000 in available cash, while Banks had raised more than $835,000 and had $502,000 in cash. Banks easily won re-election that year in the heavily Republican 3rd District.

Coldiron raised $4,035 in the second quarter. Banks raised more than $58,000 in the same period, including more than $33,000 from political action committees.

New opponent

A Democratic Party caucus recently chose Martha “Marty” Lemert to fill the vacancy on the ballot for state representative in Indiana House District 52.

She will challenge incumbent Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, who has held the seat since 2010.

House District 52 covers all of DeKalb and parts of Steuben and Allen counties. 

Lemert is an attorney and has had a private practice in Fort Wayne for more than 20 years. She unsuccessfully challenged Smaltz in 2018 and is running to provide new leadership and new perspectives at the Statehouse that put families first.

“Many issues facing families in this region weren't changed by the pandemic, they were exposed by it,” Lemert said. “For example, the state doesn't have any paid leave laws, and the minimum wage should be raised above the federal level.”

She also wants a more effective hate crime bill that includes LGBTQ citizens and supports criminal justice reform.

To learn more about Lemert's campaign, go to

Braun backs off

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun has abandoned his legislative effort to restrict qualified immunity protections for law enforcement officers.

Braun, R-Ind., introduced the Reforming Qualified Immunity Act in June.

It would allow government employees to claim qualified immunity from civil lawsuits only if their allegedly unlawful conduct has been previously authorized or required by federal or state law or regulation or if a court has found the conduct consistent with federal laws.

But the Indiana State Police Alliance and the national and state chapters of the Fraternal Order of Police objected to the legislation, as did Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson.

“I'll take my cue from Indiana law enforcement,” Braun said during an interview Thursday in Fort Wayne.

Braun said many of his detractors believed he was trying to eliminate qualified immunity, as many House Democrats have proposed doing in legislation. 

He said he was “throwing a template out there and doing something that would tweak it.”

“I listened, and that's why I said the bill will go no further unless they are interested in looking at it if the winds change,” he said.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at

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