Rust terminates U.S. Senate committee, closing door on his campaign ‘for now’

U.S. Senate hopeful John Rust, who was kept off the GOP primary ballot in May due to Indiana’s two-primary rule, has officially zeroed out his campaign accounts and filed to terminate his committee, according to new federal documents.

Rust’s termination report, received by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on May 29, shows that the Seymour egg farmer’s campaign has zero cash on hand after tallying up his expenses and returning roughly $6,000 contributions to himself and his brother.

Still pending, however, is a final letter from the FEC granting the request to terminate.

Rust told the Indiana Capital Chronicle that although he “may” run for office again in the future, he opted to “100% close” his Senate campaign.

“I’m not going to say no to something in the future, because you never know,” Rust said. “The situations and circumstances may change, and they may not. I may never run for anything ever again. And you know, something may pop up that I think I can serve Indiana well in, and I’ll do that.”

In the meantime, Rust said he’s focusing on promoting his book and “being an advocate” for Hoosiers seeking to make it on the ballot.

“I’m not going to be running as an independent or anything like that. I’m going to bide my time and do right by the party rules. But hopefully I can get a change (to the state’s two-primary law) to make it so other people can run,” he continued. “I’m going to keep on donating to good, worthy Republican candidates, and just keep working and trying to get good, hardworking Hoosiers elected again.”

Republican Congressman Jim Banks was ultimately unopposed in the May primary and easily secured his party’s nomination in the race for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat. He’ll face Democrat Dr. Valerie McCray, a clinical psychologist, as well as Libertarian Andrew Horning in the November general election.

The Senate seat is being vacated by Republican Mike Braun, who secured the GOP nomination in Indiana’s gubernatorial race and will now face Democrat Jennifer McCormick and Libertarian Donald Rainwater in November.

There’s no deadline on disbanding, according to the FEC. That means it’s possible for candidates to delay loan settlements, when applicable, and keep hold of their political contributions for a later campaign run.

It was a notable move by former Democratic governor Evan Bayh, who had $9.2 million ready to spend in his campaign coffer when he announced his run for U.S. Senate in 2016. Although Bayh hadn’t been in office for six years, his previous campaign funds had been left untouched.

Rust’s 2024 Senate bid was his first go at political office. Should he decide to run again, Rust will have to form a new campaign committee and restart fundraising efforts.

Zeroing out Rust’s account

Rust’s latest campaign finance records indicate he self-funded the vast majority of his campaign. His personal contributions totaled $2,610,898. A little more than $8,000 was raised from a handful of individuals — most of which came via a $6,000 donation from his brother, Anthony Rust.

As of April 1, Rust’s campaign had $97,432.20 cash in hand, according to his FEC report. Rust made a final personal contribution of $10,898 on April 8, and later credited the committee an additional $69,000 — to buy back his campaigning RV — bringing his cash total to a little more than $177,000.

Rust said he’s currently storing the RV in a barn at his Seymour farm.

“I’m going to keep my name out there,” he said. “I’ll still use it to take to Republican events across the state, and as I’m promoting my book in libraries across Indiana.”

Campaign expenses recorded between April 1 and May 28 totaled about $171,000, per the FEC report. Among the charges were $45,000 paid to the Illinois-based Victory Research firm for survey research; roughly $27,400 to Lekse Harter LLC, in Greenwood, for legal consulting; and $22,000 spent on campaign advertising, mostly provided by New Jersey-based Lamar Advertising.

And to bring his account down to zero, Rust used the remaining funds to issue $6,086.73 in refunds; $2,700 to his brother, and $3,386.73 to himself.

Over the course of his campaign, Rust did not give or accept any loans to the campaign, meaning there were no outstanding dollars needing to be settled before filing for termination.

A failed fight for the ballot

Rust sought for months to challenge Banks for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination, but a state law requires a candidate’s two most recent primary votes align with their preferred party — a bar Rust doesn’t meet.

Rust voted Republican in 2016 and Democrat in 2012. The law allows an exception, should the county’s party chair grant it. Jackson County Republican Party Chair Amanda Lowery elected not to do so in this case.

He sued to gain access to the Republican ballot, saying the measure barred the vast majority of Hoosiers from running under their preferred party.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Dietrick found in December that the two-primary requirement is unconstitutional. But the state appealed, and the Indiana Supreme Court expedited the case as a matter of “significant public interest.”

Both the Indiana Supreme Court and Indiana Election Commission separately found him ineligible in February rulings. The commission cited the law, which the Supreme Court upheld in a ruling — prompting Rust to file for a rehearing.

Rust has vowed to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But because ballots were already printed for the May primary and early voting was underway, Rust’s options were limited.

He said he still believes the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision “is in error,” and that he expects to file with the nation’s highest court by the end of the month.

“That’s the most important thing for me — to win the right for 81% of Hoosiers to run for political office again,” Rust said. “Because right now, we’re back to the kangaroo system, where the state party gets to choose the candidates, really. And that’s not right.”

By Casey Smith – The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.