In his longshot bid for a U.S. Senate seat, John Rust has filed a lawsuit against Indiana Secretary of State Diego Morales, the Indiana Election Commission and the chair of the Jackson County Republican Party, alleging that a 2021 Indiana law keeping him off the ballot is unconstitutional.
Rust—chairman of the board of Seymour-based Rose Acre Farms, the country’s largest family-owned egg producer—filed the complaint Monday in Marion County Superior Court, challenging a 2021 state election law that requires Democratic and Republican candidates running for public office to have voted with their party in the past two primary elections or else receive approval from the party chair in the county where they reside.
The law, which removed eight candidates from primary ballots last year, “creates a cycle of voter disenfranchisement,” the lawsuit reads.
Rust, who registered as a Republican with the Federal Election Commission in July, also provided a copy of his voting record from the Indiana Statewide Voter Registration System, which shows that he last voted Republican in the 2016 primary election. It also shows he voted in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 general elections, although it doesn’t say for which party he voted. Rust previously told IBJ he voted Republican in those elections.
Jackson County GOP Chair Amanda Lowery has said she won’t approve of Rust being added to the ballot, citing his past voting record in Democratic primaries in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
“State law is crystal clear and equally applied to both major political parties,” Lowery told IBJ on Tuesday. “As much as I’d love to discuss the situation, I’m unable to comment on pending legal matters. I look forward to explaining my commitment to following the laws of the state of Indiana and protecting the sanctity of our electoral process when I am able.”
Rust claims that Lowery contacted him after he formally launched his campaign to tell him he was “wasting his money” and that there was “no way” she would ever certify him.
Without certification, Rust’s candidacy will be contested. Two previous legal challenges to the statute were unsuccessful.
The Indiana Supreme Court last month denied an appeal from Charles Bookwalter, who was removed from the May 2022 primary ballot after his primary voting record revealed that he did not vote Republican in the two most recent primary elections. Bookwalter was challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Jim Baird in Indiana’s 4th Congressional District.
Rust believes his lawsuit will be successful because it was filed before his candidacy can be officially challenged.
“I think this rule is set in place to protect the establishment,” Rust told IBJ. “I think the courts will find that is unconstitutional.”
If Rust wins the lawsuit and manages to get on the GOP ballot, he would face a well-known and well-funded primary candidate in Jim Banks, who is giving up his Congressional seat to run for U.S. Senate. Banks already has the support of the Indiana GOP, as well as powerful conservative groups like the Club for Growth. He also has the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, who is vacating his Senate seat to run for governor.
Banks could not be reached for comment Tuesday.