8-time felon seeks state House seat in Michigan

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DETROIT (AP)—An eight-time felon convicted of writing bad checks and credit card fraud between 1998 and 2004 who said he’s made “many poor decisions” is running for a state House seat in the November election.

Brian Banks, a Detroit Democrat running in Michigan’s 1st House District, insists that he has turned his life around, the Detroit Free Press reported. The 35-year-old said he’s graduated from college, received a master’s degree and a law degree, and is working on a PhD.

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BRIAN BANKS

“Yes, I’ve made many poor decisions, and yes, I have a record, but that’s exactly what it is, my past,” Banks said. “I would ask them to look at what I’ve accomplished professionally and academically, since my poor decisions.”

Banks said he’s been open about his past, telling audiences in the district that includes parts of Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores about his record.

His campaign website says voters can “bank on Banks.”

With no incumbent running, Banks beat four other Democrats in the primary. He faces Republican Dan Schulte, a Grosse Pointe Shores city councilman, on Nov. 6.

Schulte said he was surprised by his opponent’s background.

“You can’t be an attorney or doctor with a felony, and I don’t think you can teach elementary school with a felony,” Schulte said. “If you can’t do any of those things, I don’t know why you can be a legislator.”

Michigan voters in 2010 approved a constitutional amendment aimed at keeping public officials convicted of certain felonies out of office. It bans those convicted of felonies violating the public trust from holding office for 20 years, and those convictions must be connected to government jobs.

Banks was not an officeholder at the time of his criminal cases.

In response to a Free Press questionnaire before the August primary, Banks answered a question about convictions by writing: “Yes, as a young adult I made a number of poor decisions which taught me a very valuable lesson and inspired me to pursue my education and use my experience to deter other young adults from making the same choices.”

Banks would not be the first with a criminal past in the Legislature. State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, pleaded no contest in a 1993 armed robbery at age 19.

“If you demonstrate that you are, in fact, sorry, you own it, you accept complete responsibility without any complaint, people are willing to give you a shot,” Johnson said.

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