Indiana attorney general race opens up after Curtis Hill’s troubles

Indiana Attorney General

Democrats spent months castigating current Indiana's Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill over allegations that he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three other women, only to see former U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita narrowly defeat Hill for the GOP nomination in July.

Posted: Oct 11, 2020 10:42 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Democrats are targeting the state attorney general’s race as their best chance to break the stranglehold Republicans have over state government.

Democrats spent months castigating current Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill over allegations that he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three other women, only to see former U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita narrowly defeat Hill for the GOP nomination in July.


Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill

Democratic candidate Jonathan Weinzapfel, a former Evansville mayor, says he wants to tone down partisanship in the office of state government’s top lawyer.

Rokita counters as an unabashed President Donald Trump supporter with an aggressive law-and-order and anti-abortion agenda that will continue Hill’s tactics of joining Republican lawsuits against what they regard as federal overreach, such as the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”

Weinzapfel said he saw no difference between Rokita and Hill over what he called “gross politicization of the office.”

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb faced opposition from Hill on policies such as the governor’s support of needle-exchange programs for intravenous drug users long before Holcomb called for Hill’s resignation when the groping allegations became public in 2018.

Rokita has foreshadowed possible similar splits by not defending Holcomb against conservative critics of the executive orders he’s issued during the coronavirus pandemic, including restrictions on personal movement, forcing some businesses to close and a statewide mask mandate.

With Holcomb holding big fundraising and organization advantages for his reelection campaign, Weinzapfel points to his bipartisan work leading Indiana’s third-largest city in 2004-12 as a sign that he wouldn’t focus on stirring political conflicts.

“I’m not running to be an adversary to the governor,” Weinzapfel said. “Voters, if I am elected, they will expect me to be an independent voice, but it’s not my goal to be an adversary.”

Rokita won statewide elections as secretary of state in 2002 and 2006 before he held a central Indiana congressional seat for eight years.

He’s trying to make a political comeback after he lost a 2018 bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination to Mike Braun and unsuccessfully sought the party’s 2016 nomination for governor after then-Gov. Mike Pence became Trump’s vice presidential running mate.

Rokita has faced several controversies, including allegations that his congressional staffers often felt obligated to do political work to help his campaigns.

And a 2018 Associated Press analysis of state and congressional spending records revealed that Rokita had spent more than $3 million in public money on advertising campaigns that often coincided with his bids for office.

Statewide police organizations are backing Rokita, who opposes steps backed by Weinzapfel, such as eliminating criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Rokita said he supports evaluations of how to improve police training but does not share the racial injustice concerns that Holcomb discussed during an August speech, when the governor described racism as a “virus that’s equally voracious” as the coronavirus outbreak for the state and nation.

Spring protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota turned violent in Indianapolis and left behind widespread damage to downtown businesses, while smaller protest marches occurred in several communities across the state.

“To say that there is systemic racism because people are out on the street marching ... absolutely not,” Rokita said. “I don’t base my conclusions because there’s lawlessness in the street.”

Rokita said a priority would be fighting to limit federal government regulations and pursuing court challenges, such as the Obamacare lawsuit.

“That has been a lifelong work for me, so that will absolutely continue,” Rokita said. “Perhaps, given this office, with more ability for success than I’ve had in Congress, for example. I’m absolutely looking forward to that and doing everything I can to help President Trump do the same thing.”

Weinzapfel is trying to break the streak of Democratic defeats in statewide races that stretches back to the 2012 election. Republicans also hold commanding majorities in the Legislature, giving Democrats little influence in state government.

Labor unions and national Democratic groups have given hundreds of thousands toward Weinzapfel’s campaign, which they have not done for the underfunded campaign of Democratic governor candidate Woody Myers.

Rokita only launched his campaign in May but has been boosted by a network of donors from his nearly two decades of political runs. He’s also collected at least some $800,000 from the Republican Attorneys General Association, the Washington-based group that largely funded Hill’s 2016 campaign.

Weinzapfel professes optimism that he can break through.

“Indiana can and should be competitive,” he said. “I think the pendulum has swung way to the right for a long time and it’s time for that to swing back.”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
DeKalb171229
Adams165219
Miami155114
Wabash153018
Daviess152243
Fayette145233
Steuben141113
Jasper138311
Harrison137624
LaGrange136629
Montgomery131226
Whitley129910
Ripley123714
Decatur123542
Huntington122310
Posey118913
Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 363304

Reported Deaths: 6020
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin49267665
Cuyahoga35214736
Hamilton29462371
Montgomery19636225
Butler14472144
Lucas14033409
Summit12962310
Stark8529197
Warren798975
Mahoning7068299
Lake662766
Lorain623697
Clermont563946
Delaware540335
Licking535875
Fairfield523763
Trumbull5159144
Greene510563
Clark501064
Allen460685
Marion457751
Wood4394107
Medina428654
Miami416465
Pickaway396448
Columbiana339597
Portage334471
Tuscarawas317557
Wayne314993
Richland306732
Mercer284737
Ross239259
Hancock232736
Muskingum231910
Auglaize223230
Putnam221449
Erie217165
Darke217058
Ashtabula215753
Geauga197351
Scioto193615
Union18658
Lawrence185436
Shelby184815
Athens18454
Seneca173118
Belmont158529
Madison156218
Sandusky152327
Preble148421
Huron147518
Defiance137921
Holmes137739
Logan123613
Knox122518
Fulton122025
Crawford119116
Ottawa118930
Washington116427
Clinton103414
Ashland102722
Williams10238
Jefferson10124
Highland99517
Henry98422
Brown9644
Champaign9345
Jackson90312
Van Wert8976
Fayette89217
Hardin86118
Morrow8552
Guernsey83313
Coshocton81413
Perry77012
Adams75012
Pike7261
Wyandot70516
Gallia70413
Paulding62710
Hocking61011
Noble59722
Carroll44310
Meigs37612
Monroe31021
Morgan2395
Vinton2105
Harrison1913
Unassigned00
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