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Unconventional woman: Banks represents Florida at RNC

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

When the great state of Florida cast its votes Monday at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Franklin County was there.

Not the 68 percent of county voters who supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and may well again in November, but one young woman whose rising star in state Republican circles carried her to the convention last weekend.

Eastpoint attorney Kristy Branch Banks, who has served as secretary of the Republican Party of Florida for the past several years, was among the smaller slate of just six delegates selected this summer by the 39-member Florida executive board to travel to Charlotte, after original plans for a large delegation to go to Jacksonville for a huge in-person convention were scrapped due to the coronavirus.

Selected by the board, which includes a sampling of Republican representatives of caucuses and congressional delegations from around the state, were Banks, as well as Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters, Vice Chair Christian Ziegler and Assistant Treasurer Jeremy Evans, as well as Florida Republican National Committeeman Peter Feaman and Committeewoman Kathleen King.

Kristy Banks, center, stands with the five other members of the Florida delegation at this week's Republican National Convention.

The trip was no doubt one of the more exciting adventures in Banks’ party activism, which has included serving as a state elector following Trump’s 2016 victory, as well as a short stint on the county school board following her appointment to fill a vacancy by Gov. Rick Scott.

She contemplated on Facebook what she would be wearing, which shoes best matched her dress, an ensemble of red, white and blue, But mostly it was all business for Banks as she got ready to hobnob with a comparatively small gathering of party leaders from around the county in Charlotte.

Her task would be to formally cast the state’s votes to nominate the president, and to approve the official party platform, all on Monday.

“This is really satisfying legal requirements and not on a grand-scale level,” said Banks, as she prepared to fly out Saturday morning, for a weekend full of social occasions, meet-and-greets and election strategizing at the hotel in advance of Monday’s business.

“That will be a lot of fun, to meet people from other states,” said Banks.

As it turned out, the party decided on Monday to forego the Convention Committee on Platform, “in appreciation of the fact that it did not want a small contingent of delegates formulating a new platform without the breadth of perspectives within the ever-growing Republican movement.”

Instead, the delegates agreed to keep the 2016 platform in place, and “continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.”

In addition, the delegates adopted resolutions to support First Amendment freedoms in the face of the “Chinese Coronavirus outbreak;” to urge Congress to end what it called “China’s monopoly control over the U.S. medical supply chain;” to provide the president “the necessary tools to finish draining the swamp;” to support “America first accomplishments;” to support “the celebrations of the discoveries and contributions of Christopher Columbus” including defending Columbus Day as a national holiday; and to “refute the legitimacy of the Southern Poverty Law Center to identify hate groups.”

Kristy Banks stands with former South Florida congressman retired Army Lt. Col Allen West.

But the highlight of Banks’ day was casting the delegation’s vote for the president, of whom she is a strong supporter.

“The promises he made he really has held up,” she said. “He’s done what he said he was going to do, everything from Israel and the Middle East to our troops, to the economy, to appointing conservative justices.

“He’s a man of action, he gets things done,” Banks said. “He’s not afraid to take a controversial position if he feels it’s the right position and he’ll take the heat for it. It’s nice and refreshing to have someone who follows through with it.”

Like many of the president’s supporters, though, Banks is less enthusiastic about the manner in which the president communicates.

“I wish the man would be more conscientious about some of his tweets and his comments. He alienates some people,” she said. “That’s his personality, that’s his character. He’s never been shy or concealed about his thoughts. He shares what he’s thinking.

“I wish he could tone it down,” Banks said. “I wish he would communicate things in a different manner, so as to not alienate people or offend anyone. He speaks with candor, and that can be off-putting.

“It’s almost became a blind indifference” from voters, she said. “They don’t like him or despise him. It angers some people that they refuse to see the positive that’s come about because of his presidency. There are so many positive things that could be accentuated in the news. It’s like they’re looking for something negative to report on and not report on the positive.”

On Monday, Banks got a chance to see the president when he and Vice President Mike Pence came to Charlotte, but it was not the first time she met him.

She had first met him at the GOP’s Sunshine Summit in advance of the 2016 presidential preference primary, when everyone from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal were on hand.

“It was kind of an intimate gathering. When Trump came, it was a huge entourage,” she said. “There was a lot of excitement surrounding him.”

Banks posted Monday on Facebook that she had been invited to travel to Washington and be a guest of Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night at the White House, but she had to decline.

“I gotta work,” she said. “No paid holidays for the self-employed.”

President Donald Trump addresses the Republican National Convention in Charlotte Monday

Banks’ husband, Brant, did not accompany her to Charlotte, not because he doesn’t support her, because he was busy preparing for classes at the ABC School.

“We have four Labrador retrievers and it’s easier for him to take care of the labs then kennel all four,” she said. “He just prefers to be less outspoken. He’s a civics teacher and he’s very careful and mindful and respectful what students may think and what parents may think.”

Banks’ involvement with the state Republican party dates back to the administration of Charlie Crist and the ascendancy of now U.S. senator Marco Rubio.

“I’ve enjoyed being involved on the state party level, on the constitution and rules committees, and making suggestions to which rules to adopt,” she said. “I’ve forged bonds I feel strongly about. I truly enjoyed talking about leadership and talking about policy.”

That a shrimper’s daughter from the county serves as an elected officer with the state party is a point of pride with her.

“It really is an honor,” she said. “It’s very rewarding and humbling. I’m just glad to have this opportunity.”

Banks, who turns 50 next year, said she has no interest in running for office, but does have a burning desire that keeps her going in advocating for the GOP.

“It’s really not so hard in Franklin County, we do have a lot of conservatives,” Banks said.

But, the fact that all the counties that surround Franklin are majority Republican pushes her to boost party affiliation.

In a county that once was overwhelmingly Democrat, about 40 percent of the 8,329 registered voters now align with the GOP.

She said when the late Willie Norred first introduced her to the county’s Republican Executive Committee fold in 2007, “you couldn’t get people to run as Republicans. They didn’t have a shot.”

But since that time, especially after Pinki Jackel became the first Republican county commissioner in many decades, and Sheriff A.J. Smith, a former Democrat, became the first Republican to be elected as a constitutional officer, the direction has become clear.

“I’m looking forward to the day when our county flips red,” said Banks. “I don’t want to stop until my county flips red. It’s getting close.”