Politics

Hill explains choice to enter election to succeed Walorski

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Former Attorney General Curtis Hill told News 8 Tuesday he expected party insiders will see him as the right choice at the right time.

Hill was among the first five candidates who filed to run for Saturday’s caucus to replace the late Rep. Jackie Walorski on the ballot. The field had grown to at least 10 by Tuesday evening. Hill said he chose to run because he believed his prosecutorial experience would play a role in any potential GOP-backed investigations should Republicans regain control of the House. He also pointed to his experience as a successful candidate for statewide office in 2016.

“I’ve developed a relationship all over the state, including the second district, so I have a great deal of background information on the folks of the second district,” he said.

How the caucus will work

Republicans will nominate a candidate for a special election to finish Walorski’s current term, as well as for the general election for the next term. The latter was the term for which Walorski was running. It would have been her sixth. Indiana Republican Party Chair Kyle Hupfer said the caucus will consist of all precinct committee members within Walorski’s district, a little more than 500 in all. He said a candidate will have to receive the support of at least 50 percent, plus one of the committee members to go on the ballot. Hupfer said committee members will first choose a candidate for the general election, then repeat the process for the special election, though he added he hopes the losing candidates from the first round withdraw, so the same candidate can go on both ballots.

“Given the time frame involved with Indiana Code to have folks’ name on the ballot, we were forced to really accelerate in a way that we would not have preferred to do, to have this caucus this quickly,” he said.

The field

Walorski’s husband, Dean Swihart, has already endorsed Walorski’s former campaign finance manager, Rudy Yakym. Yakym said in a statement to News 8 he was honored and humbled by the endorsement.

“Over the past decade, Jackie has been a mentor and friend, and I have learned a lot about public service working alongside her,” he said.

IU South Bend political science Prof. Elizabeth Bennion said the endorsement of a candidate by a widowed spouse could be a deciding factor, particularly among undecided committee members. She noted many of the first women elected to Congress ran after their husbands died in office and were able to draw a sympathy vote despite lacking previous electoral experience.

“For those who like the job that she’s doing, that might be a strong pull,” Bennion said. “I think that’s certainly what (Yakym) hopes will happen because certainly the argument there is that this is who Jackie would have wanted to carry her legacy.”

Hupfer said he was confident whoever got the nomination would win the general election. Bennion said she expects a Republican hold as well, noting President Donald Trump won the new Second District by 23 points in 2020.

The Hill question

Hill enters the caucus with name recognition that his rivals lack, but he also carries something else. He carried the weight of past political scandal. Hill was accused of groping four women in an incident at an Indianapolis bar in 2018. The courts ultimately suspended his law license for 30 days, but also threw out cases filed against him. The accusations cost him the support of the state’s leading Republicans and delegates, which ultimately nominated Todd Rokita for attorney general over the incumbent Hill at the 2020 state Republican Party convention. Hill said he doubted those past allegations will work against him in Saturday’s caucus, calling them “old news.”

“We’re talking about a caucus that, not state delgates, but a convention caucus of precinct committeemen in the second district,” he said. “These are folks who work the polls and do the heavy lifting in the community.”

Different races, different ballots

Voters in northern Indiana will need to check their ballots closely. Like most Congressional districts, Walorski’s was redrawn following the 2020 Census, so the special election will be for Walorski’s district as it existed under the old map. The general election will be for the new second district. This means some voters will only be able to vote in one election or the other. Bennion said voters should check their registration through the Secretary of State’s voter information portal to verify who is on their ballot and in which districts they live.

Candidates have until 11 a.m. Wednesday to file to run in the caucus.