Rokita wins race for AG, GOP retains state offices

Rokita

Former Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita is heading back to the Indiana Statehouse after claiming victory in the race for Indiana attorney general. Rokita, also a former Congressman, defeated Democratic candidate Jonathan Weinzapfel in the Nov. 3 election, securing about 58% of the vote.

“I want to thank my fellow Hoosiers for the trust and confidence you have placed in me to serve as your next attorney general,” Rokita said in a statement issued around 9:40 p.m. on Election Night, when he was declared the winner. “And thanks to my family, friends, co-workers, our great volunteers and all the men and women of good faith who wanted to make sure we had the best person for this important job.

“You know our state has come so far under commonsense conservative leadership over the last 15 years,” the AG-elect continued. “We have become a leader in the nation in every category that matters. Now we must keep it that way.”

Weinzapfel — who previously served as a state representative and mayor of Evansville — congratulated Rokita on his victory, saying he was disappointed in the results but proud of his campaign.

Weinzapfel

“As you’ve heard me say before, I entered this race because I didn’t like the direction the incumbent attorney general was taking our state,” Weinzapfel said, referencing outgoing AG Curtis Hill. “We ran in response to his embarrassing personal behavior and partisan lawsuit that only hurt Hoosier families. We ran to restore honor, integrity and purpose to the office.

“And while our campaign fell short, I am proud of the issues we raised,” Weinzapfel continued. “From supporting the governor’s mask order, to opposing the (Affordable Care Act) lawsuit, to issuing plans to help the state recover from the pandemic, to a plan to legalize marijuana to fund schools and make long overdue improvements to our criminal justice system — these were all issues that were worth raising — and will continue to be defining issues in our state.”

Rokita will assume the position of attorney general in January from Hill, the GOP incumbent Rokita defeated during the Indiana Republican Convention in July.

Hill announced his reelection campaign last year despite an attorney discipline action that ultimately led to a 30-day suspension of his law license, with automatic reinstatement. Rokita did not enter the race for the Republican nomination until May, when the Indiana Supreme Court announced Hill’s suspension for ethical violations related to allegations that he drunkenly groped four women in March 2018.

Rokita’s victory continues the GOP’s long-held control of the Office of the Indiana Attorney General. Beginning with Steve Carter in 2001 and continuing to the present with Greg Zoeller, Hill and Rokita, the OAG has been led by a Republican for nearly two decades.

Currently, all statewide elected officials in the Hoosier State are Republicans. However, Democrats had been closely watching the race between Rokita and Weinzapfel, believing Hill’s ethical troubles could result in the office flipping to Democratic control. Weinzapfel even received an endorsement from one of the state’s GOP leaders: Education Secretary Jennifer McCormick, who endorsed multiple Democratic candidates during the 2020 campaign season.

A report from Reuters released Nov. 4 predicted Republicans would continue to hold the majority of state attorney general offices. Presidential battleground states North Carolina and Pennsylvania likewise saw tight races for the office of attorney general. Democrat Josh Shapiro was reelected in Pennsylvania, but the North Carolina race had not been called at IL deadline. Reuters projected that even if incumbent Democrat Josh Stein keeps his position in North Carolina, the GOP would retain a 26-24 majority of state attorneys general.

In the Indiana race, Rokita received significant financial support from the Republican Attorneys General Association. The organization is chaired by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who previously served with Rokita in Congress.

“Todd Rokita supports the strong Hoosier values of family, safety, and economic security,” Landry said in a statement. “He is committed to working with law enforcement and enforcing the rule of law.”

In addition to Hill, Rokita bested Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter and Indianapolis attorney John Westercamp in the race for the GOP nomination, both of whom endorsed the former congressman after his convention win. Hill, however, publicly pledged only to support “conservative principles.”

A spokeswoman for Hill’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the election results.

Weinzapfel secured his party’s nomination against State Sen. Karen Tallian, who became his honorary campaign chair.

Rokita campaigned on a platform of certainty in uncertainty times, pledging to run the OAG with efficiency and integrity. He pointed to his experience as Indiana secretary of state, a position he said demonstrated his ability to effectively run a statewide office.

The GOP candidate also promised to champion constitutional freedoms that he said are often under attack, noting his support for religious freedom and the right to bear arms and his opposition to abortion. He echoed President Donald Trump in calling for the “rule of law” to protect communities, earning the endorsement of the Indiana State Police Alliance.

After declaring victory, Rokita reiterated his commitment to those issues.

“As a statewide officeholder I will continue to provide that same kind of pro-growth, limited government leadership which has allowed our state to succeed. In all things I will work to protect Indiana and put Hoosiers first,” Rokita said.

“I will defend — not defund — our police, working with law enforcement to uphold the rule of law. I will work to stop waste, fraud, and corruption in government. I will work tirelessly to support our job creators and help restore — and grow — our economy,” he continued.

“I will uphold the Constitution, both our 1st Amendment and 2nd Amendment Rights, for all Hoosiers regardless of background. I will protect taxpayers because I will never forget those dollars come from hard-working Hoosiers. I know our nation was founded on the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and I will defend the right to life.”

For his part, Weinzapfel told voters he would be the attorney general of the people, not the party. He criticized Hill for running his office under the mantle of “hyperpartisanship.”

The former mayor also criticized Hill for adding Indiana to a national lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act. If he had been elected, Weinzapfel had promised to pull the state from the litigation. Similarly, he criticized Rokita’s congressional record of opposing the Obama-era health care law.

Also, Weinzapfel made a public call for the statewide legalization of marijuana, saying funds could be directed away from marijuana prosecutions and toward criminal justice reform and teacher salaries. He pledged to continue supporting his campaign platform despite his election loss.

“Our state and nation have a lot of healing to do, and while I may not be the next Attorney General, I plan to remain an active citizen fighting for causes and issues I believe in,” Weinzapfel said in his concession remarks. “I hope all my supporters do too. The fight is not over.”

Both candidates garnered significant financial support during their campaigns.

Rokita reported a balance of $1,083,111.93 at the end of the third quarter, followed by a Q4 balance of $936,235.62. Weinzapfel saw a Q3 ending balance of $1,002,742.41 and a Q4 balance of $437,542.60. The fourth quarter reports include donations given between Oct. 1 and 19.

Much of Rokita’s financial support came from the RAGA Action Fund. The Washington, D.C.-based organization gave $796,000 to the GOP campaign in Q3, plus an in-kind contribution of $20,200 and a direct contribution of $109,000 in Q4. He also received multiple big contributions from individual donors who gave $10,000 or more.

Weinzapfel saw significant financial support from labor organizations, including multiple contributions exceeding $25,000 in Q3. Also, the Democratic Attorneys General Association made in-kind contributions in the third quarter exceeding $45,000.

The DAGA press team did not respond to an IL request for comment on Rokita’s victory.

In the fourth quarter, Weinzapfel’s 128-page campaign finance report included 112 pages listing individual donations. Additionally, the Democratic candidate transferred about $487,000 from the Weinzapfel for Indiana PAC to his attorney general campaign when he announced his candidacy late last year.

On Election Day, the Rokita campaign announced the candidate had tested positive for coronavirus and would be quarantining with his family. He celebrated his win from home.

“Working together, our best days are ahead of us,” Rokita said after claiming victory. “Thank you again and God bless.”•

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.