10 Oct Meet The Two Candidates For Indiana Attorney General
Hoosiers will elect a new Attorney General this fall as Republican Greg Zoeller leaves after two terms in the office. Republican Curtis Hill and Democrat Lorenzo Arredondo sat down with us to talk about how the two candidates plan to make the job their own.
What does the Attorney General do?
The attorney general represents the state in appeals of criminal convictions. And the office helps lead investigations on human trafficking, educates on data security breaches, provides legal opinions to government officials and works to recover public funds.
There’s a reason the attorney general is a separately elected position. An independently elected attorney general is not as obliged to agree with the governor or the legislature. For example, a governor might want to sue the federal government, and the attorney general might not agree with the suit.
“And in that situation, the attorney general would arrange for someone else to represent the interests of the state,” says Frank Sullivan, IU McKinney School of Law professor.
Sullivan points to a recent example: Republican Governor Mike Pence wanted to sue over President Obama’s immigration executive order. Current Attorney General Greg Zoeller is also a Republican but …
“Attorney General Zoeller declined to represent the state of Indiana, not thinking that the state would win,” Sullivan says. “And Governor Pence felt so strongly about it that he went out and hired a private law firm to represent the state of Indiana in that matter.”
In cases like these, the two candidates seeking to replace Zoeller have different points of view.
Meet Republican Curtis Hill
Republican Curtis Hill says, when it comes to suing the federal government, he’d take things on a case-by-case basis.
“There may be things that the federal government is doing through a federal agency or executive order that perhaps is outside the bounds of the Constitution,” Hill says. “But if it’s something that does not have a direct effect on Hoosiers or a major consequence, it may not be the type of thing that we would expend resources on.”
Hill says he’d try to work out any disagreements and come to a mutually agreeable solution:
“If we’re not able to resolve differences and I need to take a position that’s different, my responsibility and obligation to the people is to make that difference known, clear, transparent and defensible,” he says.
Hill says his 14 years as the Elkhart County prosecutor – with a reputation as a hard-liner – will help him make decisions.
Meet Democrat Lorenzo Arredondo
But Democratic candidate Lorenzo Arredondo says Indiana has, in recent years, joined in too many lawsuits against the federal government.
“I’m not going to waste my time or taxpayers’ money involved in lawsuits that you can’t defend and can’t win and cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” he says.
Arredondo says when deciding whether to file a lawsuit, he views the attorney general’s role as a-political.
“The attorney general, having viewed all sides and all the circumstances, would then make the determination not because of politics, ideology, some agenda. But the focus would be what is in the best interests of the people of Indiana,” he says.
Arredondo says he’d bring a background to the table the office hasn’t seen before.
“I have a master’s degree in secondary education – I used to be a teacher before I was a lawyer or a judge,” he says.
Where the two candidates agree
Democrat Arredondo calls the job “the people’s lawyer:”
“That’s why the most well-known division of it is the consumer fraud division because it is to protect the consumer, to protect the taxpayer, to protect the people,” he says.
On this, Arredondo and his Republican opponent agree. Curtis Hill says, as the people’s chief legal advocate, it’s important for the attorney general to be connected with local communities.
“Consumer protection affects every community and every individual in terms of scams and frauds and it’s important to understand what role the attorney general plays in providing assistance to people on the ground in the communities,” Hill says.
There’s one other thing both candidates agree on: their race doesn’t get a lot of attention in the shadow of presidential, Senate and gubernatorial campaigns.
But both Arredondo and Hill say the attorney general has a direct connection to the everyday lives of Hoosiers and how their state operates.