Rokita earns Republican AG nomination, ousting incumbent Hill

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Todd Rokita.

Hoosiers will have a new attorney general next year now that former Indiana congressman Todd Rokita has defeated incumbent Attorney General Curtis Hill for the Hoosier GOP nomination.

Rokita

Rokita secured 52.15% of votes from party delegates on Friday, Indiana Republican Party Chair Kyle Hupfer announced. He’ll now face off against former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, who is the Democratic nominee for Indiana attorney general.

“I am humbled by the support of delegates from throughout Indiana who have nominated me to serve as Indiana’s next Attorney General,” Rokita said in a statement released after his convention victory. “… As our next Attorney General, I will help ensure that we always protect Hoosiers with pre-existing healthcare conditions, that we operate the AG’s office efficiently and protect taxpayer dollars, that we uphold the rule of law to protect our communities from crime, that we support a growing economy, and we safeguard our Constitutional freedoms along with common sense, conservative values.

“I look forward to serving with integrity as Indiana’s next Attorney General,” he said.

Rokita also defeated Indianapolis attorney John Westercamp, who was eliminated in the first round of voting, and Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter, who was eliminated in the second round. Rokita was declared the winner after the third round.

Hill’s loss comes after an unconventional internal party race for the nomination.

GOP delegates voted by mail-in ballot rather than at an in-person at the convention due to COVID-19.  Also, Hill served a 30-day law license suspension that ended one day before the party’s virtual convention on June 18.

Hill told delegates during the virtual convention that he is not perfect, but that no one is. He said he had been “speared” by the media and by liberals over the last two years following allegations that he drunkenly groped four women at a party in March 2018.

Indiana political leaders — including Gov. Eric Holcomb and the then-leaders of the Indiana House and Senate, all Republicans — began calling for Hill’s resignation in July 2018. And after Hill’s law license was suspended, Hupfer publicly said Hoosiers would be best served with a new AG.

The AG staunchly resisted calls for his resignation and has consistently denied wrongdoing at the 2018 party.

But after a four-day disciplinary trial last October, the Indiana Supreme Court found Hill guilty of misdemeanor battery against the four women who accused him: Indiana Democratic State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and current and former legislative staffers Gabrielle McLemore Brock, Niki DaSilva and Samantha Lozano. The justices imposed a 30-day suspension with automatic reinstatement, which Hill served May 18-June 17.

Hill has not been criminally charged in relation to the groping allegations. 

Ballot counts released from the Indiana Republican Party show a very close race between Hill and Rokita, with Hill leading in the first two rounds.

According to the Hoosier GOP, in Round 1, Hill secured 37.43%, or 655 of the votes; Rokita 27.37%, or 479; Harter 18.69%, or 327; and Westercamp 16.51%, or 289.

In the second round, Hill received 40.43%, or 701 votes; Rokita 34.66%, or 601; and Harter 24.91%, or 432.

Rokita succeeded in the final round with a 72-vote margin, earning 873 votes (52.15%) to Hill’s 801 (47.85%).

Hill had responded to the convention results at IL deadline. In public statements, both Westercamp and Harter endorsed Rokita.

“Congratulations to Todd Rokita on securing our Party’s nomination — I look forward to supporting you this fall,” said Westercamp, a lawyer with Bose McKinney & Evans who was the first candidate to enter the Republican race.

“I want to congratulate Todd Rokita on his victory today,” said Harter, who joined the race after former Indiana Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp dropped out.  “We must return a conservative to the Attorney General’s Office in order to partner with Governor Holcomb and the General Assembly, and so I unreservedly endorse Todd Rokita for Attorney General and ask my supporters to do the same.”

Rokita was a latecomer to the Republican campaign, announcing his candidacy a little more than one month before the virtual convention. He has repeatedly said that he would not normally challenge a GOP incumbent, but because of Hill’s license suspension, Rokita said the sitting AG was “very badly wounded.”

For his part, Weinzapfel, reacted to Rokita’s victory by pledging to Hoosiers that he would be “in their corner” if elected in November.

“Hoosiers don’t want more DC-style political games. They want a fresh start, new leadership and a new direction in this office,” Weinzapfel said in a statement. “They want an Attorney General that will actually stand up for them. That’s what I will do from day one.”

Weinzapfel defeated Indiana State Sen. Karen Tallian for the Democratic nomination. She has since endorsed Weinzapfel and joined his campaign as honorary chair.

Previously, Rokita won statewide elections as Indiana secretary of state in 2002 and 2006 before he held a central Indiana congressional seat for eight years through 2018. He champions his “solid history” of defending gun rights and religious freedom, as well as his previous work while secretary of state to implement the nation’s first photo voter identification law.

In his Friday statement, the former Congressman said that during his time as secretary of state, he “operated (his) office efficiently, using less taxpayer dollars than predecessors going back nearly two decades.” Also, he added that he “created the Prosecution Assistance Unit to find, and bring to justice, criminals defrauding Hoosiers.”

“With work as Secretary of State,” he said, “I have a record Hoosiers can trust.”

But 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 Rokita had spent more than $3 million in public money on ad campaigns that often coincided with his bids for office.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association responded to Rokita’s victory by calling him “a self-serving politician who was rejected not only by Indiana voters, but also his own party in his last attempt at statewide office.”

“Hoosiers want an Attorney General who can restore integrity to the office and put Indiana families first,” DAGA executive director Sean Rankin said in a news release. “Todd Rokita is just another politician working for personal gain, not to serve. It’s why Indiana will reject Rokita for statewide office once again this November.”

The Republican Attorneys General Association – of which Hill has been a leader – had not responded to his convention loss at IL deadline.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For more on the 2020 race for Indiana attorney general, see the July 22 edition of Indiana Lawyer.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets in {{ count_down }} days.