Former Indiana attorney general eyes GOP gubernatorial run after groping case derailed 2020 re-election

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is considering joining the 2024 Republican gubernatorial race, nearly three years after his re-election bid was sidelined by allegations that he groped four drunk women at a party.

Hill has built a following among social conservatives during his tenure and his entry into the gubernatorial race could further complicate what is already shaping up to be a costly fight for the Republican nomination. US Senator Mike Braun, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch and Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden are already in the running to replace Republican Governor Eric Holcomb, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits. .

Hill expects to make a decision in the coming weeks as he and his wife “pray carefully for guidance,” he said in a statement provided to The Associated Press by his political consultancy.

“At a time when the Hoosiers are hungry for new leaders, it’s crucial that we distinguish between those who genuinely represent conservative values ​​and those who just say they do,” Hill said. “Our state deserves a proven conservative who has the courage to challenge the Indianapolis status quo and the courage to stand up against the Washington, DC mob.”

Hill, 62, won the election for state attorney general in 2016 after 14 years as a prosecutor in Elkhart County, northern Indiana. Hill had been considered a rising African-American star among Republicans and had built himself as an anti-abortion and tough-on-crime crusader, making appearances on Fox News to discuss topics including homelessness issues in San Francisco.

Hill faced calls for his resignation from Holcomb and many other Republican leaders in the state after allegations became public that he groped women at a 2018 party at an Indianapolis bar. He denied any wrongdoing, but the state Supreme Court ordered a 30-day suspension of his attorney’s license after finding “by clear and convincing evidence that (Hill) committed the criminal act of beatings.” and injuries” against three female legislative staffers and a state legislator during the party.

The allegations were a key campaign issue when he narrowly lost the 2020 Republican Attorney General’s nomination for re-election to Todd Rokita, who took office in January 2021.

Hill failed in another attempt at a political comeback last year when he lost a vote among Republican precinct committee members to replace U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski in the election ballot after her death in a car crash. road. Business executive Rudy Yakym won the GOP nomination and election for the Northern Indiana 2nd District seat.

Even though Hill finished far behind, the caucus vote showed Hill still had a supporter base and could still divide conservative voters in a competitive race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, said Steve Shine, who was the Republican president of Allen County, which includes the state’s second-largest city, Fort Wayne, for more than 30 years.

“Add that to what he had to go through because if it was so overwhelming he wouldn’t have been in second place. He would have been at the end of the pack rather than the top,” Shine said, who did not support any candidate.

Hill, however, would enter the race far behind in campaign fundraising.

Braun, Crouch and Doden all started this year with campaign bank accounts approaching or exceeding $3 million and have raised at least hundreds of thousands more since then. Hill’s state campaign reported ending in 2022 with around $20,000.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination will seek to extend the party’s dominance in the state, which includes winning five straight gubernatorial elections since 2004. Former public schools superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who won the elected as a Republican in 2016 alongside Hill and Holcomb but later broke with the Statehouse GOP, is the only declared candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

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