Banks, Rust spar over residency as primary battle for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat continues

By: - January 22, 2024 7:00 am

Dueling U.S. Senate candidates U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, left, and John Rust. (Banks via Leslie Bonilla Muñiz/Indiana Capital Chronicle, Rust via candidate’s X account)

Where does U.S. Senate candidate John Rust actually live? That’s the latest question lobbed by his challenger, GOP favorite U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, as the race for Indiana’s open seat heats up.

In a campaign ad released last month — and in new statements made this week — Banks called out Rust for “lying” about his home address on his voter registration, and while giving a deposition under oath.

But the embattled sixth-generation Indiana egg farmer maintains that he’s lived in his Seymour home for more than three decades. 

Rust said he often uses the address for his mother’s house — roughly a mile away — as his official residence because he cannot receive mail to his own “house in the woods.”

We already knew John Rust is a conman — now we know he has committed voter fraud multiple times.

– Third District Congressman Jim Banks

“We already knew John Rust is a conman — now we know he has committed voter fraud multiple times,” said Congressman Jim Banks. “He price gouged hard-working Hoosier families, lied about being a Republican, and now we know lied under oath about illegally voting from a false address since 1987. He’s unfit to serve in the Senate because he only serves himself.” 

Rust called that accusation “absolute ridiculousness.” 

“He lives in Virginia and he’s worried about my address in Indiana? It’s insanity,” Rust told the Indiana Capital Chronicle. “My house is in the woods, where I live, I do not have mail service. So, all my life, I’ve used my mom’s house — I’ve always used her address as my legal address.”

“They’re grasping at straws because they’re looking for anything,” he continued, speaking of Banks’ campaign. “They’re scared to death of me, and so they’re coming up with this crazy stuff that anyone rationally looking at it will just say, ‘Wait a second. That’s stupid. Why on earth is he talking about this?’”

Contention over Rust’s deposition

Banks’ questioning stems from a November deposition, in which Rust was grilled by the sitting congressman’s attorneys about his voter registration and residency.

The Oct. 11 deposition was given as part of Rust’s ongoing lawsuit to qualify for the GOP primary ballot.

Rust said in his statements that he resided at an address located on North Base Road in Seymour. He said that home is his mother’s, where he grew up.

But Rust clarified that his current home is located nearby, on North County Road 100. 

Both houses surround his family’s Rose Acre egg farm.

“That’s about a mile away, but there’s not an address there. It’s behind our Rose Acre hatchery. It’s in the woods. It’s about a mile from my mom’s house, so my mom’s house has always been my legal address,” he said under oath.

The Jackson County clerk confirmed to the Capital Chronicle that Rust was registered to vote at the North Base Road address since December 2020. Before that, he’d been registered at another nearby address off County Road 800 North in Seymour since the early 1990s.

Just weeks after he gave his deposition, on Nov. 13, Rust updated his voter registration to his actual residence — the North County Road 100 address.

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He said he did so because he wasn’t aware of the address discrepancies on file.

“This was brought up in the deposition — I did not know that my legal address was not my residence address. And so once I found that out, I had to change it because I have to comply with the law,” Rust said.

Jackson County Clerk Piper Shoemaker additionally confirmed that her office has since rejected Rust’s signature on two petitions; one for Eric Doden’s gubernatorial bid in September, and another for Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch’s campaign in November.

Shoemaker said the signatures could not be accepted because Rust’s address on the petitions — the North Base Road address — did not match his new voter address.

Because Rust signed his own petition Jan. 3, after he updated his registration, that signature was accepted.

Current property records for Rust’s address list a Seymour P.O. Box for mail delivery. The same P.O. Box was reported on his federal campaign filings.

A P.O. Box can’t be used for voter registration, however.

He lives in Virginia and he’s worried about my address in Indiana? It’s insanity.

– John Rust, U.S. Senate candidate

Vote411.org — a national one-stop-shop for election information – has an Indiana section that says “While a post office box can be used as a mailing address, it cannot serve as the residence address for determining the voting precinct. The county will process the application and send the acknowledgment card or notice of disposition (in case of rejection) to the provided mailing address.”

Banks’ campaign released a video weeks later, on Dec. 11, attacking Rust publicly over residency.

“John Rust is a lifelong Democrat who had to sue the state to change election laws to get his name on the ballot as a Republican, and he and his husband Luiz don’t even live at the house where they’re registered to vote,” the ad said. “What is John Rust hiding?”

Rust’s legal battles continue

Banks and Rust are seeking to succeed U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, also a Republican, who is pursuing the governor’s office in the 2024 cycle.

Rust has had to fight to appear on the Republican ballot, however, because of a law prohibiting candidates whose last two primary votes don’t match the party they wish to represent.

He sued the state in September to overturn the election law and gain access to the GOP ballot, saying the measure barred the vast majority of Hoosiers from running under their preferred party.

Marion County Superior Judge Patrick J. Dietrick agreed, ruling in December that the two-primary requirement was unconstitutional.

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear arguments on Feb. 12, though a ruling in favor of Rust doesn’t guarantee his appearance on the ballot — he must still gather 500 signatures from each of the state’s nine congressional districts.

Despite Banks’ widespread name recognition, campaign war chest and the support from both former President Donald Trump and current seat holder Braun, he also continues to attack underdog Rust.

That includes ongoing denigration of his “Democrat” opponent over a recent court battle involving the Rust family, including John Rust.

Egg farmer Rust stepped down from the board of his family’s Rose Acre Farms last year — shortly before a jury found that Rose Acre, one of the nation’s largest egg distributors, had purposefully manipulated its supply with competitors to increase the price of eggs. The egg farms have been fined millions.

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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.

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