INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Democrats announced Wednesday that former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel will be their nominee for state attorney general, a race that attracted numerous candidates from both parties after Republican incumbent Curtis Hill was disciplined over allegations of groping four women.
Party officials announced Weinzapfel’s nomination at a virtual press conference Wednesday evening following the final tabulation of votes. The 54-year-old has worked in state and local government as well as the private sector. Weinzapfel beat out longtime state Sen. Karen Tallian for the nomination.
Weinzapfel said he was honored to receive the nomination, saying Indiana faces several challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying loss of jobs and issues with the criminal justice system.
“Now more than ever, Indiana needs a leader who can bring people together to solve these complicated problems,’’ he said.
Democrats believe they a viable chance to win the attorney general’s office after Hill’s law license was suspended for 30 days earlier this year. Hill is among four candidates seeking the GOP nomination when 1,800 state convention delegates vote beginning next week.
On Wednesday, the Republican attorney general finished a month-long suspension that was ordered by the state Supreme Court after four women said he groped them during a party. Hill, 59, has denied doing anything wrong
Due to concerns raised by the coronavirus pandemic, state delegates submitted nominee votes by mail and held their convention virtually. Both Weinzapfel and Tallian took their campaigns almost entirely online, too, focusing largely on issues like healthcare access and criminal justice reform.
A state representative from 1999-2003, much of Weinzapfel’s recent experience comes from time spent in Evansville: He served as mayor of the city from 2004-11 and was chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville from 2014-19. He’s a partner at the law firm of Jones Wallace.
Access to health care, settling ongoing litigation against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, accountability for charter school funding and increased transparency around nursing homes are among Weinzapfel’s priorities, if elected. They’re all positions Weinzapfel says differ from Hill’s.
Weinzapfel said that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Hill continues efforts to take health care from Indiana residents. He added that no matter who the Republicans nominate for attorney general, that effort will continue.
“On day one, I will withdraw Indiana from Curtis Hill’s lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, preserving the health care of thousands of Hoosier families,” Weinzapfel said.
Weinzapfel won’t know his November ballot competitor for another three weeks.
The spotlight is expected to be on Hill, who must convince delegates that he deserves a second term despite his misconduct allegations.
Hill’s challengers include Todd Rokita, a former member of Congress and two-term Indiana secretary of state, Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter and Indianapolis lawyer John Westercamp.
The votes for the Republican candidates will be mailed in by state convention delegates by 5 p.m. July 9. Those results will be announced by the party July 10.