INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
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
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.
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 state 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.
general nominee Jonathan Weinzapfel said he wouldn’t have undercut Holcomb’s
mask order and that Rokita isn’t supporting the governor’s mandate by
wanting to kick the issue to the Legislature.
“He’s on the wrong
side of science, the wrong side of public health,” Weinzapfel said. “He can
stand with Curtis Hill. I will stand proudly, on this issue, with Governor
Several members of
the Republican-dominated Legislature have said they will propose limits on
the governor’s emergency authority, such as capping the number of 30-day
extensions he can declare without legislative consent.
former Evansville mayor and state representative, said since Indiana’s
part-time Legislature only meets a few months a year, the governor must be
able to respond in emergencies.
“I would hope they
will maintain that authority for the governor,” Weinzapfel said. “I’m sure
there are plenty of things that could be changed to make it more reflective
of what we’ve experienced over the last few months.”
The discontent over
Holcomb’s coronavirus orders has some longtime Republicans saying they will
vote for Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Donald Rainwater in November’s
opposes the mask requirement, while Holcomb’s Democratic challenger, Woody
Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, has called for
tougher enforcement of the mask mandate and called Holcomb’s easing of
precautions in recent weeks “a huge mistake.” Indiana’s rates of COVID-19
deaths and hospitalizations have grown in the past month.
Rokita said he
“absolutely” supports Holcomb’s reelection and that leaders across the
country faced an unprecedented situation when the pandemic first hit the
“The governor was
in a very difficult position and led in a way that, by in large, kept the
state safe relative to other states,” Rokita said.