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Indiana Attorney General Candidates Split Over Virus Powers

Jonathan Weinzapfel, left, and Republican Todd Rokita.

Jonathan Weinzapfel, left, and Republican Todd Rokita. (Courtesy of the Weinzapfel and Rokita campaigns)

Indiana’s attorney general candidates are divided over how the Republican governor has used the state’s emergency powers law to impose a mask mandate and other coronavirus-related executive orders that have stirred discord among conservative voters.

But it is the Democratic candidate who fully supports Gov. Eric Holcomb’s legal authority while the Republican candidate is emphasizing what he calls the need to curb that power.

Holcomb has faced criticism from some conservatives — including the current Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill — over the 44 executive orders that he has issued since first declaring a statewide public health emergency on March 6.

Some of that pushback has focused on Holcomb’s refusal to use his exclusive power to recall legislators to the Statehouse since their regular 2020 session ended March 11 — just as COVID-19 shutdowns started spreading across the country.

Republican attorney general candidate Todd Rokita calls the coronavirus very contagious and worse than the flu, but says he wants to work with legislators to revise the state emergency law, which was largely drafted in 2003 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Rokita said he believed it was meant for temporary situations such as floods, tornadoes or terrorist actions, even though epidemics are included among the 29 situations specified in the law.

“I don’t see in reading it that it’s at all meant for something with the duration as long as this pandemic,” Rokita said.

Rokita is a former congressman and Indiana secretary of state. He won the Republican nomination over Hill after the state Supreme Court suspended Hill’s law license for 30 days; Hill had been accused of groping a s tate lawmaker and three other women during a party.

Holcomb dropped any possible criminal penalties from the statewide mask mandate in July after Hill argued the governor was overstepping his authority and that only the Legislature could take such a step.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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