DETROIT (Talk Radio 1270) Many seemed surprised when he won election Tuesday, but newly minted state Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit, said he never tried to hide his felonious past.
Banks, 35, made headlines Election Day when news broke that the overwhelming winner had been convicted eight times between 1998 and 2004 for felonies involving bad checks and credit card fraud. Banks, a Democrat and lifelong Detroiter, now represents the east side of Detroit, Harper Woods, and the tony Grosse Pointes. He won 68 percent of the vote to Republican Dan Schulte’s 32 percent.
“This whole process has made me a mature man, it has wisened me up, it has caused me to think before you do some things and I think at the end of the day, we’re supposed to live in a world, a society that believes in rehabilitation,” Banks said Thursday on the Charlie Langton Talk Radio 1270 show, his first interview since the election.
He added: “My past is simply that, my past. I’m ready to move forward, to go to Lansing and fight for education, our seniors … Our public schools … I’m ready to fight for public safety, to stop foreclosures.”
He was also recently sued again for allegedly owing a landlord $900 in back rent, though Banks said that was from allowing a family member to rent a place using his name — and said the debt will be paid in full.
Banks said since his convictions he has worked hard, commuting 184 miles a day to get his law degree from Michigan State. The son of a single mother, he said he had dropped out of high school. He said he went back to school, finished high school, college and law school and now volunteers at his church and in his community.
“I’ve done all that I know to do to prove that I’m rehabilitated,” Banks said, adding that his crimes happened when “I thought I was an adult and I wasn’t really an adult, I was a kid.”
He said five of the eight felonies were for the same transaction, when people he thought were friends convinced him to fraudulently use credit cards.
He’s now teaching undergrads at Baker College, and hoping to become a working lawyer at some point.
“I’m not a lawyer, I have a law degree,” Banks said, adding he graduated in 2010, but withdrew his application for the Bar Exam so he could have more time to prepare for the character and fitness portion of the test.
When he applied for that portion of the exam, he said a person on the committee told him to put more time between himself and the felonies, which he said he thought was a good idea.
“I’m going to re-apply when the time is right,” Banks said.
Banks says he intentionally put the spotlight on his past prior to the election so voters could make an informed decision and he’s now ready to work for his constituents. ”I told them I was concerned with my past and they said ‘Listen, your past is simply that, your past,’” Banks said.
Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that bans anyone convicted of a felony in the last 20 years from running for office — but the caveat is the conviction has to be “related to the person’s official capacity while holding any elective office.” This was Banks first run at elected office.
Banks said he has no worries the Legislature won’t seat him because of his past.
“That law states you cannot be convicted of a felony while in office, I was never in office … These are crimes that were eight, nine, 10 years ago.”
He was endorsed by his pastor Mark Holloway at Peace & Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, and a variety of unions including the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters & Millwrights, the Michigan Education Association, Pipefitters Local 636, Teamsters Local 299, and UAW Region 1A.