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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Former AG Curtis Hill launches gubernatorial bid

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By WHITNEY DOWNARD

Former embattled Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill joins the growing list of politicos running to succeed term-limited Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2024.

Hill touted his experience as a prosecutor and said in a release the “government institution” needed a revival and someone to “hold lawmakers and government bureaucrats accountable.”

“All across Indiana, there is a strong ‘hometown feeling.’ The disastrous policies of Washington, DC, have taken their toll on that hometown feeling, but it’s time to build it back up and show the nation what it means to be a Hoosier. Our campaign is spreading a positive vision for Indiana that resonates with voters, business owners, parents, police officers, elected officials, and Hoosiers all across our great state,” he said in a statement to the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

Hill lost a GOP convention bid for re-election to Attorney General Todd Rokita after a groping scandal.

Longtime political analyst Andrew Downs, an emeritus associate professor of political science at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said Hill could be successful despite his history.

“In 2016, (Hill) actually earned more votes than any other statewide Republican candidate and (he) clearly has run campaigns successfully as a prosecutor in Elkhart County and as Attorney General,” Downs said.

Record as AG

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Hill’s law license for 30 days after finding he committed criminal battery when he groped four women, including a legislator, during a party at an Indianapolis bar in 2018. The court’s disciplinary commission recommended revoking his license for two years.

Hill maintains he did nothing wrong.

In a statement, Democrats pounced on Hill’s socially conservative actions as attorney general, including his opposition to abortion rights and LGBTQ+ adoption, calling him “unfit to serve and wrong for Hoosiers.”

“Hoosiers have not forgotten how Curtis Hill disgraced Indiana and the Attorney General’s office just a few short years ago. Indiana was embarrassed on the national stage when Hill groped a legislator and three staffers at a social event…” Mike Schmuhl, the chair of the Indiana Democratic Party said. “Democrats are fighting to level the playing field for families, invest in our local schools, and improve our state’s quality of life that has fallen under 20 years of Republican administrations.”

Hill joins U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden and Jamie Reitenour in the race for the Republican nomination. Frontrunners Braun, Crouch and Doden all have deep pockets, setting the stage for a potentially expensive campaign.

Hill previously filed to fill a vacancy in the 2nd Congressional District after the unexpected death of Rep. Jackie Walorski, though delegates selected Rudy Yakym as Walorski’s successor.

What are his chances?

And though he might have “baggage” that other candidates don’t have, Downs likened it to the nomination of former President Donald Trump in 2016 — who, despite numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, won the Republican primary.

Downs said more candidates in a Republican primary complicates the political calculus for candidates, since the nomination goes to whichever person gains the largest overall percentage of the vote.

Two candidates need 51% to win while four candidates would only need 26% in a close race with a relatively even distribution of votes.

“We go to a situation where any candidate who has a block of voters equal to 20% of the electorate suddenly becomes a potential winner if they think they can find another 6%,” Downs said.

“It lowers the threshold for voting but if you get enough people who are legitimate candidates and are able to garner a chunk of voters, the person who is able to hold on to their chunk the best, who has the most loyal supporters as the candidate who may win,” Downs continued.

Hill declined to speculate on potentially running with Noblesville pastor Micah Beckwith, who launched an atypical campaign for lieutenant governor — a position chosen at party conventions and not directly by voters.

However, Downs noted that Beckwith could be a potential boost for a candidate, should the conservative deliver a crucial slice of the voter electorate.

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