By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel won a 48-vote Democrat attorney general nomination Wednesday night and now has to wait three weeks before he knows whether he will face embattled Republican incumbent Curtis Hill or one of three challengers. Weinzapfel defeated State Sen. Karen Tallian, 1,057 to 1,009, with 86% of the delegates participating in this pandemic inspired virtual state convention.

“I am so honored to receive this nomination,” said Weinzapfel, the former two-term Evansville mayor and state legislator. “These are unprecedented times and Hoosiers want an attorney general who will focus on families, our health and our rights. The pandemic is still actively attacking Hoosiers. In the midst of this pandemic, this attorney general is actively trying to take health care from Hoosier families by suing to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

“We have record job losses and a staggering number of Hoosiers are out of work,” Weinzapfel said at a press conference via Zoom. “With the death of George Floyd, we are now confronting issues with the criminal justice system. I will be an attorney general that fights to protect all Hoosier families. On day one, I will withdraw Indiana from Curtis Hill’s lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.”

He called Hill’s move against Obamacare “completely unacceptable.”

Tonight, Hill along with challengers Todd Rokita, John Westercamp and Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter will address the virtual Indiana Republican Convention. GOP delegates will vote and send in choices for four ballots, they will be counted on July 9 and announced on July 10.

Hill led the GOP ticket in 2016, but drew the three challengers after sexual harassment allegations surfaced after a 2018 sine die party the night the General Assembly finished business. A special prosecutor declined to file charges, but Hill’s law license was suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission for 30 days. That suspension ended Wednesday with Hill’s license returned to “active in good standing,” as directed by an order of the court.

Weinzapfel had two successful terms as mayor of Evansville after he defeated Republican Mayor Russell Lloyd Jr. 63%-33% in 2003 and was reelected in 2007 with 83% of the vote. After City Hall, he became chancellor at Ivy Tech. In addition to two terms in the Indiana House from 1999 to 2003, he unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. John Hostettler in 1996, losing 50% to 48%.

“As attorney general, I will focus on citizen’s rights,” Weinzapfel said, “not partisan fights. I will restore honor, integrity and purpose to the office.”

Rokita reacts to Weinzapfel nomination

Former twice-elected statewide Secretary of State and Member of Congress Todd Rokita reacted, saying, “Indiana Democrats have nominated a true liberal in Jonathan Weinzapfel, who will promote abortion, support job-killing red tape, and will continue his record of back door tax increases. Having faced off against him as I successfully implemented the nation’s first Voter ID law, I know he is a fierce advocate for his liberal causes. As our next Republican nominee for Attorney General I would look forward to a robust debate on these issues.”

GOP AG candidates speak tonight

The 2020 Indiana Republican State Convention will be broadcast live from 5:30 to 7 p.m. tonight. The convention will feature speeches from all Republican attorney general candidates including Attorney General Curtis Hill, former congressman Todd Rokita, Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter, and Zionsville attorney John Westercamp.

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer and a keynote address from Gov. Eric Holcomb are also on the bill. The convention will be broadcast live on WISH-TV (Indianapolis), WHME-TV (South Bend) and Livestreamed on wishtv.com and Indiana.gop/stateconvention.

In developments this week Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington endorsed Hill, saying he has successfully defended convictions attained by Hoosier prosecutors. “He is an effective and efficient leader for the attorney general’s office,” Harrington said. Also endorsing Hill was Monica Boyer. “Results are what I seek,” said Boyer. “Our freedoms depend on what our attorney general does. The lives of the unborn depends on how hard our attorney general fights. I watched him fight for us when nobody else would.”

Indiana Family Institute’s Curt Smith says he is backing Hill, adding, “I am committed to Curtis as the most consistent conservative voice in the Statehouse.”

Harter picked up the endorsement of Rush County Chair Phil Caviness, Crawford County Chair Whitney Timberlake, Ripley County Chair Ginger Bradford and Shelby County Chair Rob Nolley, indicating his center of support is in south central Indiana, as well as Marion and Hamilton counties.

This is how the HPI Horse Race is handicapping this unprecedented showdown via the virtual convention.

Hill’s window of opportunity will be a first ballot win. We believe that if it comes down to multiple ballots, Westercamp will be out after the first round, and Harter after round two. In a third round showdown against Rokita, we think the former congressman and secretary of state will coalesce enough support to overcome Hill’s widespread support among social conservatives. HPI Horse Race Status: Leans Hill.

Cook Report rates AG race ‘tossup’


This is easily the most unsettled AG race in the country in 2020. The reason: Attorney General Curtis Hill has faced groping allegations by four women — three legislative staffers from different parties and chambers and one Democratic state lawmaker — at a 2018 post-session party (Jacobson, Cook Political Report). While Hill strongly denied the allegations and a special prosecutor believed he could not secure a conviction, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, fellow GOP statewide officials, and legislative leaders called on him to resign. Eventually, Hill was slapped with a 30-day suspension of his law license by the Supreme Court, all of whose justices had been appointed by Republican governors, and by extension, a suspension from the office of attorney general. While Hill will automatically be reinstated in mid-June, that’s not the end of the story for the Republican nomination. Hill will have to beat out three rivals for the nomination at the state party convention: former U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, who was twice elected statewide as secretary of state; Decatur Co. prosecutor and county party chair Nate Harter; and attorney John Westercamp. Hill’s strength in the convention will be among grassroots social conservatives, while the other candidates will be fighting for the same bloc as well as courting establishment support. If Hill is the nominee, he could see dwindling support from suburban Republicans, especially women, giving Democrats a shot at the AG office even in red Indiana. The Democrats’ chance of winning would probably be narrower if Hill is denied the nomination. Because of the uncertainty, we’re moving this race from Lean Republican to Toss Up, though it could shift back depending on how the GOP nomination works out.

Weinzapfel lauds SCOTUS decision

Weinzapfel lauded the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding workplace protections for gays. “The Supreme Court ruled that gay and trans people cannot be discriminated against in the workplace, citing protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Weinzapfel said. “The decision is a heartening sign of progress for the LGBTQ. community, who for too long have been denied equality under the law. As a long-time supporter of equality for all Hoosiers, I celebrate and commend the Supreme Court’s decision. I stand firm that no one should fear workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s why as mayor of Evansville, I passed one of the state’s first non-discrimination ordinances and as chancellor at Ivy Tech, I installed the first gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.” 

Conventions


Buttigieg, Visclosky to address young Ds

The Indiana Young Democrats (IYD) announced that the Democratic U.S. Reps. André Carson and Pete Visclosky will speak at the 2020 Indiana Young Democrats Virtual State Convention on Saturday. Carson and Visclosky will address the attendees beginning at 11:30.

Congress

5th CD: AFP backs Spartz

Americans for Prosperity Action announced its support for State Sen.Victoria Spartz’s election to Indiana’s 5th CD. Spartz earned AFP Action’s support for her work in the Indiana Senate to expand access to quality, affordable health care, putting more money in Hoosier families’ pockets, and backing pro-growth reforms that help small business recover and thrive following the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and business shutdowns. AFP will use its signature grassroots and a range of other tactics to support  Spartz.” 

Presidential 2020

Biden leads Trump by 16% in Michigan

The damage done to President Donald Trump’s standing in Michigan following recent protests outside the White House and in cities across the U.S. may have been even greater than originally believed, a new poll released to the Detroit Free Press said Tuesday. Two weeks ago, EPIC-MRA of Lansing, a polling firm that does work for the Free Press, released a survey showing former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, leading Trump 53%-41% in Michigan, a 12-point edge. But a second poll, started on May 31, a day after the first poll began, and concluded a day later than the first poll, on June 4, showed Biden leading Trump 55%-39% in Michigan, a 16-point margin. 

Biden leads in six swing states

Former Vice President Joe Biden has expanded his edge over President Donald Trump in six 2020 election swing states, according to a new CNBC/Change Research poll.  The survey found the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee leads the incumbent by a 48% to 45% margin across Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden’s edge grew from 1 percentage point in the last swing-state poll released two weeks ago. Trump led in all previous versions of the survey dating back to March. The poll released Wednesday found Biden leading Trump in all six states for the first time (though only narrowly in some): 

Arizona: Biden 45%, Trump 44%

Florida: Biden 50%, Trump 43%

Michigan: Biden 47%, Trump 45%

North Carolina: Biden 47%, Trump 45%

Pennsylvania: Biden 49%, Trump 46%

Wisconsin: Biden 48%, Trump 44%