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Indiana attorney general accused of groping facing GOP test

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Votes are being tallied Friday to decide whether Republicans will nominate Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill for a new term despite allegations of groping four women that resulted in a month-long suspension of his law license.

State Republican leaders are scheduled to announce the results of mail-in voting by some 1,800 state convention delegates among four candidates after a campaign among party activists that centered on whether the allegations against Hill left him vulnerable to defeat in the November election.

Hill had been seen as a rising African American star among Republicans and worked to build support among social conservatives, touting himself as an anti-abortion and tough-on-crime crusader and making appearances on Fox News to discuss topics such as San Francisco’s troubles with homelessness.

Former U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita is Hill’s most prominent challenger, saying he entered the race because Hill had a history of “bad judgment, bad choices and not taking responsibilities” marring his time as state government’s top lawyer. Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter and Indianapolis lawyer John Westercamp also are seeking the nomination.

Hill, who was elected as attorney general in 2016 after 14 years as Elkhart County prosecutor, is seeking reelection despite opposition from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other top state GOP leaders. Holcomb hasn’t endorsed a candidate but called on Hill to resign over the allegations that he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three other women during March 2018 party marking the end of that year’s legislative session.

Hill, 59, has denied wrongdoing, and a special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against him. But the state Supreme Court suspended his law license for 30 days, ruling unanimously in May that the state’s attorney disciplinary commission “proved by clear and convincing evidence that (Hill) committed the criminal act of battery.”

Former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel won the Democratic nomination a race that the party is targeting in hopes of breaking the current hold Republicans have on all statewide elected offices.

Weinzapfel has criticized Hill over his participation with other Republican attorneys general in the lawsuit against “Obamacare,” but Hill’s Republican opponents have argued the groping allegations put party control of the office in jeopardy.

Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon testified during an October attorney disciplinary hearing that Hill, smelling of alcohol and with glassy eyes, was holding a drink in his right hand and put his left hand on her shoulder, then slid his hand down her dress to clench her buttocks. “A squeeze, a firm grasp,” she said.

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Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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