Amanda Banks jumps back into politics, takes her husband’s Senate seat – temporarily


By Hannah Troyer

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. – Amanda Banks is not your typical stay-at-home mother.

Before Amanda and her husband, Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, had children, she loved working on public policy for various organizations. But, since her first daughter’s birth in 2009, her days have been less political.

Until now.

With her husband serving in Afghanistan until May 2015, Amanda Banks will be the interim senator for the district until his return – a first in Indiana history.

Jim Banks – who serves as a supply corpsman in his Navy Reserves unit – deployed to Afghanistan in September. The eight-month assignment is the senator’s first. He was commissioned as an officer in the Navy Reserves in 2012.

He was reelected unopposed on Nov. 4. Two weeks later, Banks took the oath via Skype from Afghanistan. But after the swearing-in ceremony, Banks submitted a leave of absence – triggering the Republican Party to convene a caucus of precinct committee officials to appoint an interim senator until his return in May.

On Thursday night, that group chose Amanda Banks – with her husband’s blessing.

“I am biased but I can’t think of anyone who could represent the district better.

Amanda is imminently qualified,” Banks said. “She has been around the legislative process and the district since I was elected in 2010. She knows the issues and she knows the leaders around District 17. More than anything else she is thoughtful about the issues and will work hard at serving the district well over the next six months.”

Politics brought the Banks together 14 years ago. And so the idea that Amanda Banks would take her husband’s seat is no surprise to those who know their history.

The couple first met during a congressional campaign in 2000. Both had an interest in politics and were volunteering to aid the effort.

Jim Banks was the president of College Republicans at Indiana University – a national organization on college campuses looking to support and aid in the election process of Republican candidates. He encouraged his now-wife to get involved.

“Jim was the president and I became the vice president. We started spending a lot of time together,” Amanda Banks said. “We were working on political issues we were interested in. Our relationship went from friendship to finally dating after college.”

Amanda Banks majored in public policy at IU where she graduated with honors with a bachelor’s of science in public affairs and a business certificate from the Kelley School of Business.

After graduation, she landed her “dream job.” She ventured off to Colorado Springs to work as a federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family – a Christian ministry centered on biblical marriages and child rearing.

Banks was the organization’s chief liaison to the U.S. Congress – advocating for traditional family values in the formation and adoption of federal policy. She analyzed, wrote and spoke about federal legislation for the organization’s print publications and news broadcasts and acted as its spokesperson.

“I really enjoyed the job. I used my degree to help advance pro-family legislation in congress, and I did that for four years,” Banks said.

During that time, the couple continued to date. But, after a year apart, Jim Banks made the move to Colorado to be closer to his future wife.

They married in 2005.

Eager to have children, the Banks returned to Indiana to be closer to family – ultimately settling in Columbia City in 2007. A few years later, Jim Banks decided to run for state Senate and was elected in 2010.

While Jim Banks has stayed involved with politics over the years, having kids changed Amanda Banks’ career.

Now, Amanda Banks’ days consist of dropping off and picking her kids up from preschool, making lunches, and interacting with her children. It’s the everyday life of most stay-at-home moms.

She said leaving her career in public policy was the right decision and one she was willing to make.

“I just want knew it was right for me,” Banks said. “It’s by far the hardest job I have ever had. To care for, nurture and raise three little girls is very challenging. I do have days were I think working outside the home would be wonderful. But, it is a privilege to stay home with them and be a primary influence.”

So just as he did at IU, Jim Banks had to convince his wife to get involved in politics. Shortly after he got his deployment orders, the senator told her he did not want to leave the district without representation.

Sen. Banks told her he would submit a leave of absence upon reelection – with someone filling his place. He asked his wife to consider applying for the position.

Though Amanda Banks loved politics and did miss working outside the home, the initial discussion did not go as Jim Banks planned.

“I didn’t know what to think,” she said. “At first, I thought, ‘How could I?’ It would just be too hard. I just dismissed it. I was so consumed by emotions, I wasn’t ready to think about it.”

In the coming months, Jim Banks continued to talk about the idea. And the more the couple talked, the more Amanda Banks began to see it as a great opportunity.

“What I came up with were potential benefits for me and the girls – for all of us while he’s away,” Amanda Banks said. “I have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference while he’s away. What better way to spend my time while he’s gone? It’s a unique opportunity. I have an interest in public policy and this is a chance for me to get back into my career and do something I care about.”

Close friends and coworkers have no doubt Amanda Banks is the person for the job.

Cathie Humbarger, executive director of Allen County Right to Life met Amanda Banks 10 years ago during her Focus on the Family days. Humbarger interviewed her for a radio show. Since returning to Indiana, Amanda Banks helps Humbarger with the radio show and is now a co-host.

“It is hard to find anyone with more of a passion for the life issue than Amanda,” Humbarger said.

Amanda Banks has also been involved with various public policy, including serving as the vice president of Allen County Right to Life. She is co-host of “I Choose Life News and Views,” a weekly, pro-life radio program broadcasted on nine stations across Indiana.

In addition to her continued involvement with public policy, she believes she has a deep knowledge of the district because of her role as a senator’s wife.

“I have traveled the district with Jim and I know the issues and concerns of those who live there,” Amanda Banks said. “My stay-at-home wife, mom and military wife perspectives are unique and can be very good for the state. I think I have every reason to believe that I will enjoy working in the Senate and the opportunity to represent our community is an honor.”

Andy Zay, the Huntington County Republican Party secretary, came to know the couple through political networking and events. He said the transition from husband to wife in the Senate seat will be smooth because of the couple’s similar political views.

“To know the Banks family and how they operate, they work as a team,” Zay said. “As for her values and serving in the Senate, I think you’re going to have very similar moral, political and value-based decision-making. Amanda may even be more conservative than Jim.”

Amanda Banks already has an agenda along with a desire to have her voice heard. She would like to advance pro-life policy and hopes to replace her husband on the Senate Education Committee, an issue important to her because of her small children.

She would also replace her husband on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. She believes her role as a military wife would be a welcomed perspective and she hopes to help and support Hoosier military members and their families any way she can.

Amanda Banks plans to consult both her husband and other senators for advice and council, but Jim Banks said his wife wouldn’t need his help much.

“Amanda is smart and she is an independent thinker. She doesn’t need me to guide her necessarily,” Banks said. “As there are issues where we disagree at home, I’m sure there will be issues where we will disagree in the legislature. It will be fun for me to watch. “

The Banks’ “team” philosophy to conquer the everyday tasks of childrearing and work has shifted a bit since Jim Banks left in September.

Like anyone adjusting to life while a member is deployed, Amanda Banks admitted the first three weeks of her husband’s deployment felt like three months. “Adventure” is the word she hopes her family will come to use in the coming months to describe this chapter of life.

And she said her husband’s absence reminds her of his importance and contribution to the family.

“I miss him terribly. Caring for the girls is difficult without my teammate there,” Amanda Banks said. “This serves as a reminder that we weren’t meant to do parenting things alone, and I have great respect for those who do. It reminds me how God created males and females differently and how they bring different things to families. We miss Daddy, miss my husband, and we miss the man in our lives.”

Amanda Banks said that while the experience is a challenge for her, she knows other military families are going through the same thing. She said the experience has given her a new perspective.

“I have gained such an appreciation for military families who do this all time. I feel lonely, but I know they are too,” Amanda Banks said. “Prior to Jim’s service, I had an appreciation for the military – a great respect. I just had no idea the sacrifice that they and their families make.”

Banks knows her young daughters feel their dad’s absence as well. Her two oldest daughters, Lillian, 5, and Elizabeth, 3, both started preschool the same week their father left, which helped the family establish a weekly routine.

Her youngest daughter, Joann, 1, goes to the local YMCA two mornings a week so Banks has some time to herself to run errands, do chores or just take a few moments to breathe.

One of the most challenging things for Amanda Banks isn’t necessarily balancing a new schedule – it’s been explaining her husband’s deployment to her young daughters.

“Lillian understands that Daddy is gone for a long time and is appropriately emotional and expresses it,” Amanda Banks said. “Elizabeth doesn’t understand it. She asks frequently if Daddy is coming home today which is quite hard.”

The family is able to see each other face-to-face sometimes. With about an eight hour time difference, this means Amanda Banks and the girls use Skype to call Jim Banks during their lunch time while he is getting ready for bed.

The family’s daily schedule will change when Amanda Banks comes to the Statehouse. The girls will be spending a lot more time with her mother during the day while she works.

Amanda Banks said balancing being both a mother and a senator will be a challenge, but said it is a challenge all women with children who decide to join the work force face.

Jim Banks agrees and said his wife can handle the day-to-day schedule of being a mother and senator. In fact, he said that may help her when it comes to relating to Hoosiers.

“The challenge for Amanda to balance life during the session is not unlike the challenge that any other legislator faces in striking the best balance with work, home, family, etc.,” her husband said. “We are fortunate to have a strong cast of family around us during this experience to help in many ways. I also believe that balance will make Amanda a better legislator in understanding the complicated and challenging lives that some Hoosiers face.”

And she said taking her husband’s seat creates a “silver lining” in his deployment.

“This is an opportunity for me to do something meaningful and do something for my own community and represent the people” while her husband is away, Banks said. “To take on a leadership role is a wonderful opportunity.

“The best advice I have for significant others going through a deployment is to look for something meaningful to put yourself into. For me, it’s pursing the Senate seat.”

Hannah Troyer is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


  1. The Banks are both exceedingly fine young people. Having known Jim since his work in John Hostettler’s congressional office, I can vouch for his desire to be a public servant in both politics and the military. I wish them and their family well.

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