Indiana Supreme Court issues ruling in John Rust Senate bid

The Indiana Supreme Court on Thursday stayed a lower court ruling that would have allowed a man to run for one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats as a Republican, even though the state GOP doesn’t back his candidacy.

A Marion Superior Court ruling in Indianapolis in favor of egg farmer John Rust had temporarily blocked a law that prevented him from getting onto the Republican primary ballot, but the stay issued Thursday put that ruling on hold and allows members of the public to challenge Rust’s candidacy. It came one day before the deadline for such challenges.

Rust is seeking to run against U.S. Rep. Jim Banks for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Mike Braun.

Rust issued a statement saying, “I’ve been fighting the establishment since day one. I will never stop fighting. All options are on the table, including relief from the US Supreme Court.”

Michelle Harter, Rust’s attorney, told The Indianapolis Star she interpreted the stay to mean the state’s highest court likely will rule against Rust in the end.

“I am amazed and disappointed at the stay,” Harter said. “It also means more and historic voter disenfranchisement.”

Harter and a spokesperson for Banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A state law says a candidate’s past two primary ballots must be cast with their affiliated party or a county party chair must approve the candidacy, but Rust challenged the statute and the Marion County court ruled in his favor, granting a temporary injunction allowing him to run in the May primary as a Republican.

Rust, the former chair of the egg supplier Rose Acre Farms, is vying to replace Sen. Mike Braun, who is vacating the seat to run for governor.

Rust voted as a Republican in the 2016 primary but as a Democrat in 2012. He said he didn’t vote in the 2020 Republican primary due to the pandemic and the lack of competitive Republican races in Jackson County, and that his votes for Democrats were for people he personally knew.

The county’s Republican Party chair said in a July meeting with Rust that she would not certify him, according to the lawsuit. Rust has said she later cited his primary voting record.

Rust filed a lawsuit in September against Secretary of State Diego Morales, the Indiana Election Commission and Jackson County Republican Party Chair Amanda Lowery challenging the law. Rust officially filed with the office Feb. 5 to run as a Republican, according to state records.

Should he prevail in his quest to get on the primary ballot, Rust faces an uphill challenge for the nomination. The state GOP and former President Donald Trump have endorsed Banks in the Senate race. According to campaign finance records, Rust has mainly bankrolled his campaign, giving it $2.5 million last year.

Banks ended the year with more than $3 million in cash on hand, according to records.

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