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Former AG Curtis Hill calls for eliminating Indiana’s DEI office

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Republican candidate for governor on Monday said a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office launched in 2020 duplicates existing programs.

When former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill launched his campaign for governor on July 10, he said he would eliminate unnecessary programs within the executive branch.

On Monday, Hill announced the Indiana Office of Chief Equity, Inclusion, and Opportunity Officer would be among his first targets. Hill told News 8 the office has never had a clear mission.

“We’re dismantling a check-the-box standard,” he said. “It’s not designed to actually work, but to provide a few people with jobs and some type of mysterious direction.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb created the office by executive order in August 2020 amid the nationwide racial justice protests that followed the murder of George Floyd. The office tracks racial disparities across numerous metrics, including public health and safety outcomes and economic indicators. It also recently launched a paid work-based learning internship program for high school and college students of diverse backgrounds. Hill said the office does few things existing programs such as the Indiana Civil Rights Commission don’t already.

Hill said he would rather put those resources toward roundtable discussions around the state about racial disparities that could lead to actionable recommendations. He pointed to discussions he held on criminal justice matters as attorney general.

Indianapolis Vice President of the NAACP TyJuan Garrett said he sees Hill’s announcement as pandering to a far-right voting base. He said the office already has proven crucial in helping minority-owned businesses to secure state contracts. More importantly, he said the office provides a way for the governor to hold all of the state’s agencies accountable for their DEI goals and ensures people have equal access to their state’s government regardless of their background.

“You’d lose it being a cabinet position. This person has the governor’s ear,” Garrett said. “To have that go away, you would have that person that sits right in there, in that office, holding every agency accountable, saying, hey, this is what we’re looking for.”

Garrett said existing programs don’t replicate what the office does. In particular, he said the Civil Rights Commission has more to do with the private sector than the state government.

So far, Hill’s major primary opponents have not indicated whether they would dismantle the office.