By Steve Garbacz
FORT WAYNE — Northeast Indiana thinks the country is heading in the right direction and voters are sending Rep. Jim Banks back to Congress.
Banks defeated his Democratic challenger Courtney Tritch by a 67-33 margin, according to the Indiana Secretary of State’s vote count as of 9:45 p.m.
Banks easily carried the four-county area, getting 74 percent in LaGrange County, 72 percent in Noble County, 71 percent in DeKalb County and 69.5 percent in Steuben County.
“The longer I do this job, the longer I recognize that public service manifests itself in a very local way. I am proud of the assistance that my staff and I have been able to provide to so many constituents over the past two years,” Banks said in his victory speech. “My pledge to you tonight is that I will work just as hard for you over the next two years and I won’t take lightly this incredible privilege to serve. I am grateful for this opportunity, for the support of my constituents, for the family and friends in my life and for the wonderful privilege to live in this, the greatest county in the world.”
Banks campaigned on the accomplishments of Republicans under President Donald Trump, including passing a large tax cut and working to rebuild America’s military. He’ll return to the U.S. House for his sophomore campaign representing the 3rd District, which covers all of 10 counties and parts of two more counties.
Tritch, a former marketing official with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, had asked voters to consider a change in leadership, with focuses on improving health care, supporting public education and promoting workforce development even during strong economic periods.
In the end, northeast Indiana proved too conservative once again to put her over the edge in a midterm when Democrats nationwide were energized to try to retake the U.S. House.
In conceding the race, Tritch thanked her supporters for sticking with her and their efforts to re-establish their voice in northeast Indiana.
“This is not the speech I wanted to make today. Remember your wins. I want all of you to know, none of your efforts have been wasted. A year and half ago, they told us we couldn’t build a base,” Tritch said. “We may not have won this evening but this campaign was never about me. It’s about using our voices from this day forward.”
“This community is my family and I have never been so proud to be part of a family as I am tonight,” Tritch said.
Despite losing by a 2-to-1 ratio, Tritch still posted the best finish for Democrats in the 3rd District since 2010.
Northeast Indiana hasn’t had a Democrat in the U.S. House since 1994 when Jill Long was voted out of office.
In his speech, Banks thanked Tritch for stepping up to run and give voters a chance to put democracy into action at the polls.
“I also want to take a minute to congratulate my opponent, Courtney Tritch, on a hard-fought, spirited campaign. Courtney and I might disagree on a lot of issues, but I appreciate her passion for what she believes in. It says a lot when you have strong candidates from both parties match up in an election like this when it serves the voters well and I appreciate her hard-fought campaign,” Banks said.
News Sun reporters Emeline Rodenas and Kayla Brennan contributed to this report.