Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill announced his reelection campaign Wednesday, but Hoosier Republicans should find a new candidate.
They probably won’t. But they should.
Hill caused scandal in Indianapolis after being accused of inappropriately touching four women, including one Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria, at an Indiana General Assembly wrap-up party in March 2018. Witnesses reported that Hill was highly intoxicated, floating around the party making unwanted advances on women.
Hill (who is married, by the way) denied any of it happened despite a large roster of witnesses — 56 people — who formed a pretty robust picture of the party for the Indiana Inspector General.
In his reelection announcement, Hill closed with this line “I’ll never back down from partisan attacks, the media, and even Republicans embarrassed to defend our values.”
Let me just quote directly from the conclusions of the Inspector General:
“Hill’s behavior at the sine die party at AJ’s is well documented. Multiple eyewitnesses provided statements that Hill’s conduct was inappropriate, ‘creepy’, unwelcome, and made many of the women at the party uncomfortable. Men and women from both parties, the political left and political right, provided accounts of what transpired that night. Many witnesses were lobbyists for particular industries and presumably have no particular allegiance to anything more than advancing their clients’ interests.”
“The women affected indicated Hill’s actions caused emotional distress, family distress and anger. At least one woman left the sine die party in tears, others were upset enough to actively avoid any contact with Hill the rest of the night, and still others sought the protection of men and other women who were there. Several men at the bar observed unwanted touching and offered to get involved, but the women present actually came to the aid of each other, and the women present discussed it the following days.”
Perhaps the most troubling passage of the Inspector General’s report is this one:
“All but one of the women who alleged Hill inappropriately touched them were in their 20’s and new in their careers. This demonstrates the disparate power, influence, authority, and age that exists between Hill and the women who made allegations against him.”
That’s not just inappropriate. It’s predatory. It’s the exact type of power dynamic at the root of the #MeToo movement.
Once upon a time, the political parties and the citizenry used to expect our elected officials to exemplify a high moral standard and character. Now, for a disgustingly large amount of people, that only seems to apply to politicians of the other political party.
But of all the elected officials, one might expect that the attorney general, the chief law officer of the state, should be held to an even higher standard because, you know, he is the person who is supposed to uphold and enforce the laws of the State of Indiana.
A special prosecutor assigned to the case determined “that the requisite criminal intent and statutory elements were not present to file criminal charges of sexual battery or battery.” I guess that’s maybe because an Indiana State Police crime scene investigator didn’t show up to dust Rep. Candelaria’s butt for fingerprints.
Hill has been facing civil suits and last month appeared in an nearly week-long hearing before the state’s attorney disciplinary commission about the groping allegations. It could be months before the commission makes a ruling and suggests what disciplinary steps need to be taken, ranging anything from nothing to disbarment.
No one in Indiana would be surprised to see Hill get a slap on the wrist or, perhaps more appropriately for this case, a light spanking on the behind.
Indiana Republicans don’t have to wait for that disciplinary ruling to come down. They could take action next year, since it’s the parties, not the public, that pick the slate of candidates for these statewide offices.
Zionsville lawyer John Westercamp has thrown his hat in for the job, so the state GOP already has at least one other option.
The bottom line reality of the situation is this — Republicans don’t need Hill on the ballot.
With the state of politics in Indiana, the GOP could probably put literally anyone with a law license and an “R” next to their name on the ballot and they would win. Voters don’t know about or care about any statewide office not named governor, and Indiana has shifted red enough that any Republican candidate up for statewide office in 2020 with President Donald Trump on the ballot is likely a shoo-in.
Republicans can score a moral victory by discarding the groper-in-chief and still hold the office.
Although Hill has referred to himself as a “unicorn” — a black conservative Republican in Indiana (a state currently represented by a grand total of zero black Republicans in the Indiana House, Indiana Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate) — his value in office pales in the shadow of a well-corroborated reporter detailing a borderline-criminal breakdown in moral behavior and common decency.
The state party should do the right thing and make his political career extinct like the actual unicorn.
It probably won’t. But it should.
At which point, I leave you with this final paragraph from the inspector general’s report:
“The public and others will judge whether the evidence in this case disqualifies Hill from holding elected office in the future.”
Keep that in mind when you head to the polls in November 2020.