DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - An eight-time felon convicted of writing bad checks and credit card fraud between 1998 and 2004 is running for a state House seat.
Brian Banks, a Detroit Democrat running in Michigan's 1st House District, insists that he has turned his life around despite "many poor decisions." The 35-year-old told the Detroit Free Press he's graduated from college, received a master's degree and a law degree, and is working on a PhD.
"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 says he's been open about his past, telling audiences in the district -- which includes parts of Detroit, Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores -- about his record.
Among Banks' endorsements is Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, but spokesman Dennis Niemiec said the sheriff was not aware of the felony convictions when he gave the endorsement.
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.
"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 told the Freep. "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 proposal that bans anyone from being elected or appointed to any state or local office for 20 years after being convicted of a felony -- such as dishonesty, deceit, fraud or breach of public trust. However, the conviction has to be related to the person's official capacity while holding any elective office or position in government.
Since Banks was not an officeholder when he committed his crimes, there's no legal reason why he can't run for a position in the state Legislature.
Banks' criminal history dates back to 1998 and includes convictions of credit card fraud and passing bad checks in several metro Detroit cities, including Lincoln Park, Troy, Southfield and Grosse Pointe Woods. His last conviction came eight years ago when he was 27-years-old.
Banks would not be the first felon elected to the Legislature. Bert Johnson, who was convicted of armed robbery when he was 19-years-old, has been elected to the House twice and the Senate once.
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