ANNAPOLIS – Robert Banks, a Republican challenger for Rep. Wayne Gilchrest’s 1st District seat, on Friday again denied allegations that he was brought into the race to dilute support for fellow GOP challenger, state Sen. Andy Harris.
Banks did offer the culprits that pushed him into the race — his three children.
“It was a family decision,” Banks said of his daughters, ages 8 to 11. “This will impact their lives in a lot of ways too, so we talked about it and made a decision.”
The Harris campaign has accused Banks of joining the race at the request of Gilchrest’s chief of staff, Tony Caligiuri, and has sent voters a flier, with a portion of a Washington Times article, accusing Banks of trying to sway voters away from Harris.
Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, has denied planting Banks in the race.
“I resent the fact that these folks are trying to deny my right to enter this race,” Banks said Friday.
Banks said he wanted the race to get away from “sandbox fighting” and focus on the issues, particularly the war in Iraq.
“Support of the troops is what this is all about,” Banks said.
But accusations of dirty tricks and finger-pointing continue to dominate the race before the February primary.
The accusations center on e-mail correspondence from Banks to a Harris fundraiser that the Harris campaign said proves that Banks is in the race to sabotage candidacy of the Baltimore County Republican senator.
“We think the e-mails speak for themselves at this point,” said Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins. “He said (in the e-mails) that nobody should be challenging Wayne.”
The e-mails, provided by Meekins, ask Banks for his support of Harris, which Banks denies. Banks, an appointee of former Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s, wrote that a tough primary for Gilchrest would perhaps open up the 1st District seat for an unknown candidate to grab.
“Once we lose it,” Banks wrote of the seat. “It is gone.”
Banks acknowledges having contact with Caligiuri, but said it was to threaten to run for the seat if Gilchrest did not shape up his voting record.
“I talked with Tony,” Banks said Friday. “But it was about what his boss could do to be a better Republican.”
Having Gilchrest’s seat stay with the Republican Party is a concern, Banks said. He added that he does not want to see Harris in Congress, but would support him if it meant keeping the seat for the party.
“The day after this primary I will endorse the winner no matter who it is,” Banks said. “I challenge my opponents to do the same. We need to keep this seat.”
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