INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s Attorney General is seen as one of the most powerful positions in the state but the role of the AG can be up to interpretation.
That’s why we are seeing the two candidates display such different campaign messages.
Republican Todd Rokita’s campaign is focused on job creation and recovering Indiana’s economy and his democratic opponent Jonathan Weinzapfel is concentrated on protecting the Affordable Care Act and legalizing marijuana. Despite what either candidate may say about these differences in priorities— political science expert Laura Wilson said they’re all topics relevant to the Attorney General position.
“There are requirements for what the Attorney General must do,” said University of Indianapolis Associate Political Science Professor Laura Wilson. “But in terms for opportunities of what they can do, what they can be involved in; I think you see a very clear difference between Weinzapfel and Rokita just in campaigning alone.”
So, now the voter needs to decide what matters to them. Rokita is against the Affordable Care Act and thinks the state should be in charge of your healthcare. As a result— he would keep Indiana in the lawsuit against the ACA.
“The key is not to let our tax dollars go to Washington in the first place,” explained Rokita. “And that’s why I’m a huge supporter of block grants making sure that the money that we would otherwise send to the federal government to go to other states, perhaps stays right here in Indiana by block-granting it to us.”
He said the Indiana General Assembly already passed coverage for pre-existing conditions in the last budget.
Weinzapfel said he would immediately take Indiana out of the lawsuit against the ACA.
“We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and I think it makes zero sense to be eliminating the protections afforded to Hoosiers through the Affordable Care Act,” said Weinzapfel.
Wilson said criminal justice and police reform lawsuits could also be brought before the AG.
“I think we can provide enhanced training, I think we can make sure that officers that can’t follow standard operating procedures are finding a different profession,” said Weinzapfel.
“We should evaluate what our police are teaching in the academy, the methods they are using and then from that evaluation, with them, make needed changes,” added Rokita on the topic.
Weinzapfel wants to legalize marijuana as a way to also help Indiana recover economically from the pandemic. Rokita said he supports current state law on the topic and touted another way to boost Indiana’s economy.
“Fight against the federal government overreach that would burden job creators from doing their job,” said Rokita.
Weinzapfel said he’s the only candidate who would support Governor Eric Holcomb’s statewide mask mandate.
“It’s a proven way of limiting the impact of the coronavirus and he clearly has the legal authority to do that under the public health emergency statute,” said Weinzapfel.
When asked about this, Rokita pointed to the General Assembly’s potential role in this decision. Supporting a new law stripping some of the governor’s power after a certain number of days from the day the executive order was issued.
“They need to have a mechanism to come back together to call themselves back into session,” said Rokita.
Both candidates said they’ll make protecting Hoosiers from COVID-19 scams and fraud a top priority if elected.
“I think that’s one of the most important things that I can do as AG is make sure I’m protecting people and we are listening to their concerns and going after the bad actors,” said Weinzapfel.
“You’re gonna see me help the governor, help the General Assembly make sure Indiana comes back from this as strong as possible,” said Rokita.
Wilson said it’s important voters understand the role of AG and how powerful the position really is.
“It’s generally seen as being the second or third most powerful position in state government,” said Wilson. “They do serve as the chief legal counsel for the state so, they are named in lawsuits that the state brings on and lawsuits brought on to the state.”