Former Attorney General Curtis Hill is one of six Republican candidate vying to succeed the term-limited Gov. Eric Holcomb. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Former Attorney General Curtis Hill is one of six Republican candidate vying to succeed the term-limited Gov. Eric Holcomb. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)
In a tough primary battle to succeed term-limited Gov. Eric Holcomb, candidate Curtis Hill has positioned himself as a proven conservative, relying on several social issues he battled during his time as the state’s attorney general. 

He reliably points to his fervent opposition to abortion, challenging Holcomb during early COVID-era battles over mask mandates and pushing against an agency decision to issue nonbinary driver’s licenses

But when it comes to additional restrictive anti-abortion measures — like banning travel to Indiana’s neighboring states, three of which have affirmed reproductive health care access — Hill said it’s “none of my concern.”

“First and foremost, I believe in freedom. And that would fly in the face of that,” Hill said. “We’re not restricting anybody’s movement. That said, we do want to make sure that we do everything that we can to provide protection for human life.”

That means working beyond bans, Hill said, to “create an awareness for folks who find themselves with (an) unwanted pregnancy that this is their better choice.”

“So, ultimately, we want to get to a point where the law doesn’t matter. It’s just a matter of the heart and people make a decision and have the resources to live with those decisions so that they will support life and continue a pregnancy,” Hill said. 

State of the race

Hill is locked in a race with five other candidates — four of whom came into the year with more than $1 million on hand while his fundraising has lagged. Several recent polls show U.S. Sen. Mike Braun as a clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination but a sizable number of undecided voters could have an impact.

But two back-to-back debates placed restrictions on participants, leaving out underdog Jamie Reitenour from both events and cutting Hill from one. He connected this to the state’s overall nomination process, including legislative actions that he said limited who could run. 

“One of my concerns is that there seems to be a level of effort to try to limit or restrict who gets to run for office. You’re not going to get that from me,” Hill said. “I think the ballot process is a joke. Having to go around the state and secure 500 signatures in the nine congressional districts is busy work designed to protect incumbents.”

When elected at the state’s attorney general in 2016, Hill’s political future seemed bright — only to be derailed by a scandal in which three staffers and one sitting lawmaker accused him of groping them at a bar after the legislative session adjourned in 2018. The civil battery jury trial was called off earlier this month but the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that he committed battery, suspending his law license for 30 days in 2020.

Hill has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the claims but Republicans still chose to nominate current Attorney General Todd Rokita over Hill. Since leaving office in 2021, Hill said he’d spent the last two years consulting, working as an advisor for several organizations and spent time as the senior fellow for the Center for Urban Renewal and Education in Washington D.C. Currently, Hill is a Project 21 ambassador with the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research, where he opines on current events.

To run for a statewide office, candidates must submit those signatures for verification. Another hurdle is the newly enacted “two-primary rule” where a candidate’s party affiliation must match their two most recent primary ballot votes, a barrier that eliminated several potential officeholders from the U.S. Senate down to the state Senate.

The latter, Hill said, discourages people from participating and makes it easier for newcomers to be eliminated in a ballot challenge.

“I think the two-primary rule is ridiculous,” Hill said. “… this idea that you can only qualify to run for office if you have participated in a primary. Who benefits from that? The person who’s already in office.”

Prior to his term as attorney general, Hill was the county prosecutor in his hometown, Elkhart County, where he grew up and went to school as the youngest child of five. His father, as detailed in his campaign bio, was a civil rights activist and president of the local NAACP.

If elected, Hill would be the Hoosier State’s first Black governor. As a candidate, Hill has denounced the practice of diversity, equity and inclusion and vowed to eliminate a privately funded state office related to that goal.

He said he wanted to encourage people to run and that the Republican Party talked about increasing its demographic, which he said wouldn’t happen with this process. 

“Republicans get a well-deserved beating over being restrictive in that sense and that’s something we need to free up. We claim to be a big tent? Well we need to be a big tent. It shouldn’t be the same six guys pulling the strings. If we want more people, if we want a more diverse group then open it up and let it be diverse,” Hill said.

Where the legislature falls short

On more kitchen table issues, Hill thinks more can be done to help parents with child care. It is often prohibitively expensive if it is available at all.

In the last legislative session, legislators expanded some child care offerings like microcenters and removed some regulations for home-based, unlicensed centers by increasing the maximum number of children to seven. Lawmakers said they would pursue more efforts in the 2025 budget session.

But Hill said further deregulation was necessary and that child care wasn’t the responsibility of the government but rather the private sector and businesses. 

“…from my perspective, the way that we encourage greater child care (access) is to reduce our regulatory authorities and burdens on child care providers so that we can expand the base of private child care,” Hill said. “… to me, that’s a private matter between the parents and the employers and not the government’s responsibility. “

But the biggest challenge in the 2025 legislative session will be the budget. In particular, lawmakers will craft a long-term plan for Medicaid, the fastest-growing portion of the budget that provides vital coverage for just under 2 million Hoosiers. At the same time, budget writers will need to rebalance after a nearly $1 billion shortfall

Several areas of legislative action, where lawmakers had invested money, were areas of concern for Hill — whether it’s the funding to shore up local public health departments or increasing dollars devoted to education. 

“One of my pet peeves is when my local legislator sends me … a flyer card of things they did in the legislative session and they say, ‘Hooray for us. We spent 5% more on education.’ Or X percent on something that everybody crows about,” Hill said. “Well, it depends on what you spent the 5% on. If you threw 5% more dollars into administrative stuff that has no bearing on children being taught anything, I’m not so sure that was a good use of spending.”

He said the General Assembly, which has been under conservative Republican control for years, could better scrutinize its spending and avoid “a spiraling process of throwing money at” problems.

Additionally, Hill decried the use of federal dollars in local school districts, saying they came with a certain set of rules and obligations that “take us away from local authority and control” to develop their own curriculum. 

For just Title I, Part A funding — one of many federal programs — Indiana schools received over $286 million in 2023, according to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“I think we’re better off if local schools quit taking the money, quit taking on the responsibility and free us up to be able to do our own local activities,” Hill said. 

He didn’t name any specific programs but said he would also look at streamlining the Indiana Department of Education — a proposal he repeated in a recently released education plan. Hill’s wife, Theresa, is an English teacher and he said his proposals were framed in light of her frustrations with students “who don’t know anything about grammar,” punctuation or capitalization. He would pivot Hoosier education to re-focus on core areas, rather than “social justice issues” that “aren’t necessary for a child’s development.”

A review of all state agencies and their personnel was necessary on a regular basis, he said, because programs and their funding change.

“I’ll give an example: the Department of Child Services is a very necessary department to have but I have spoken to some judicial officers and there are sometimes cases in which a challenge of the service hearing — which would require an attorney and a caseworker — end up having five or more additional people that are following the case and billing,” Hill said.  “We need to make sure that we have efficiencies in these bureaucracies because they grow and grow and grow.”

There’s one office that Hill praised, even if its leader, Attorney General Todd Rokita, is the one that defeated him in the 2020 convention vote. 

Hill said he was supportive of the direction Rokita’s taken the office “in the sense of defensive freedom,” specifically on Rokita’s stance against abortion. 

“We will be actually much better aligned … than the current situation and that alignment isn’t necessarily required but it’s very helpful,” Hill said. 

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