The Crusader Newspaper Group

Gubernatorial candidate Curtis Hill talks race, education and scandal

Photo caption: Curtis Hill

By Whitney Downard,Indiana Capital Chronicle

 Last week, former Attorney General Curtis Hill threw his hat into the ring to succeed Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is term-limited and can’t run again. The social conservative is well-recognized around the state, complicating the calculus of candidates vying for the same electorate in the 2024 primary race.

“I’m not running against any of the individuals that are lined up to run for governor. I’m running for the state of Indiana,” Hill told the Indiana Capital Chronicle. “I’m running because I believe that we have an opportunity to put a particular perspective into play.”

Hill joins Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden and Jamie Reitenour in his bid for the GOP nomination. Crouch, Braun and Doden all have significant financial resources, promising an expensive 2024 race.

Hill said his entrance into the race last week had forced primary candidates to identify a “true vision for moving Indiana forward,” dismissing the powerful war chests of his competitors.

“Hoosiers are not ones to necessarily think that having an open checkbook is the way to a political office … (or that) anyone who’s in elected office is automatically owed an opportunity to move up the ladder,” he said.

Campaign finance reports for candidates running for governor are due and will provide a full report for where each candidate stands in terms of fundraising.

Hill spent his first week in the race traveling to a handful of cities, giving stump speeches and meeting voters. He spoke to a lot of conservative media and also found time to chat with Indiana Capital Chronicle.

Role of race and education

If Hill won the primary, he’d be the first Black Republican nominee for the chief executive seat, an office that has never been held by a female or nonwhite Hoosier.

As Hill notes in his campaign bio, his family integrated their neighborhood and his father was a civil rights activist in the 60s, leading the local NAACP chapter for over a decade.

While race isn’t a focus, Hill said, it’s always something in the background. His run comes at a time when the state legislature considered a bill that many educators said would stifle discussions about race in schools for fear of making someone “uncomfortable.”

“I think we need to have very healthy conversations about race in this country and I think I can add to that because I have a perspective on how to address issues of race and continue to keep moving forward as a nation,” Hill said.

Hill said race had become a weaponized issue but healthy relationships with and discussions about race are “a good thing in a free society.”

“We’ve got some very, very difficult past history with racial relationships but we’ve also had some great successes and we’ve had some misinformation about race,” Hill said.

Hill said that race, especially in the historical context, needs to be included in school lessons but should avoid the shortcomings of critical race theory — a post-secondary academic lens through which to view racism that isn’t taught in schools.

“What we don’t want to do is pigeonhole people into being categorized as either oppressors or victims,” Hill said. “I’m very much in favor of conversations on race but I don’t focus on being the first this or the first that.”

Hill, whose wife previously taught in a public school, said he recognized the value of expanding education opportunities through a voucher-like program but that it couldn’t be done at the detriment of public schools.

“Not all children or parents are going to have that choice. So it’s incumbent upon us to improve, dramatically, the public school system by engaging in advanced curriculum and also providing vocational training for those kids (at) a different academic level,” Hill said.

Last week, he pushed for introducing children to foreign languages earlier in school — in first or second grade — to take advantage of their youth, before they felt “bogged down with bureaucratic crud.”

“Not only does this help prepare children for a world economy as they get older, it also continues to help develop their minds,” Hill said. “I want to do a high level of academics for children, as opposed to what I see in the current situation where we focus our attention on the lowest common denominator.

“We want to push kids to excel and bring all the kids up to a certain level. I think that’s an important aspect of education that we’re missing,” he continued.

2018 scandal derails re-election

Hill’s time as Attorney General proved to be short-lived and he left after one term amid a scandal in which he was accused of groping four women at a 2018 party with lawmakers — one of them a sitting legislator herself.

Republicans declined to give Hill their support at a nominating convention in 2020 and instead selected eventual winner Todd Rokita as their nominee.

Hill dismissed the claims and denied any wrongdoing but lost his law license for 30 days after the Indiana Supreme Court’s disciplinary commission ruled that he committed battery.

Voters, Hill said, were looking for someone with a record of leadership. During the 2016 election, Hill won 1.6 million votes while former President Donald Trump garnered 1.5 million.

“I’ve had a target on my back since I won my election (in 2016) … I had more votes than anyone in the history of the state,” Hill said. “From that moment, there was a target because I was a proven, conservative leader but also someone that would stand up to the status quo.”

Since leaving office in 2021, Hill said he’d spent the last two years consulting, working as an advisor for several organizations and spent time as the senior fellow for Urban Renewal and Education in Washington D.C. Currently, Hill is a Project 21 ambassador with the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research, where he opines on current events.

Political platform

Hill said anyone curious about how he’d govern should scrutinize his time as the state’s attorney general. During that time, Hill opposed abortion rights, marijuana legalization and adoption rights for LGBTQ+ Hoosiers. His office countered many of the COVID-19 policies enacted by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Detailed policies for his 2024 platform will be forthcoming, Hill said.

“Mostly what we’re doing right now is listening across the state and talking to friends about what their concerns are,” Hill said. “There’s a concern about restoring our trust in institutions … after the weaponization of justice — not only at the Department of Justice but even here in the state of Indiana.”

Hill’s issues page includes references to “radical gender ideology” in schools, defending Second Amendment rights and the “sanctity of life,” which he says begins at conception.

If elected, Hill said he would identify “inefficiencies” in government, working to strike laws that “clog up the system” and cutting “red tape.” That includes reviewing agency rule-making, a process that also frustrated lawmakers in the most recent session.

“I can assure you that there’s plenty of bureaucracy in the state of Indiana,” Hill said.

One example, Hill said, would be the legal counsel team that each individual agency has — something he said duplicated the efforts of the Attorney General’s office.

But Hill summarized his platform as making Indiana the “safest, most well-rounded community in the state of the country” and a leader in the country.

“I think that the nation is so divided that we need to look at states and states of particular qualities to lead us in the right direction,” Hill said. “Indiana, being not only the heart physically of American, but at the heart spiritually of American, should be the one that leads the way.”

This article originally appeared on Indiana Capital Chronicle.

Recent News

Scroll to Top