Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Thursday, June 20
The Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices

Black Voices: Why Indiana’s attorney general race deserves its own spotlight


Nearly everyone keeps saying it: the 2020 election will be one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime. I agree.

While the presidential contest has dominated most of the headlines, we must pay as much attention to our state and local candidates’ plans to respond to these pressing issues. One important race, out of many, is Indiana’s attorney general contest. This year, the candidates are Dem. Jonathan Weinzapfel and Rep. Todd Rokita.

The person elected to this office will be tasked with duties such as prosecuting and defending state governmental officials, imposing penalties on companies for consumer harms and issuing influential legal opinions about how the state’s laws should apply.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on how important the Office of the Attorney General is to the general welfare of Hoosiers through protecting general welfare of the state. In Indiana, there has been an increase in reports of unemployment fraudscams to steal personal data and price gouging incidents — which are all problems the attorney general has the power to address.

As part of the national dialogue surrounding policing and the disproportionate killings of Black Americans by the police, state attorneys general are being asked to intervene and independently prosecute officer-involved killings of civilians. A capable attorney general must be able to ensure justice on behalf of all Hoosiers in all of these situations while balancing the commitment to making sure the law is working to protect everyone.

I saw the importance of state attorneys generals first hand when I worked with them during my time at the White House as a policy specialist at the height of another public health crisis — the opioid epidemic, which took 47,000 lives in 2018. We worked alongside state attorneys general, including former Republican Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, in a bipartisan manner to develop and implement balanced policies. These policies were used to curb overdose deaths and secure justice for the people who were hurt by the deceptive marketing of pharmaceutical companies.

Now, as a law student and future lawyer, I believe the next attorney general needs to emulate the type of leadership I saw on display by setting politics aside to use the law as a tool to work on behalf of people in their times of greatest need.

The importance of this race should also ripple outside of the legal community. This specific race requests all of us to think deeply about the leadership we need during this moment. I believe some guiding questions we should ask ourselves, regardless of political affiliation, before we cast our ballots are:

  • Can I count on this candidate to protect the citizens that did not vote for him or her?
  • Can I depend on this person to listen to a balanced set of voices when discussing contentious topics?
  • Can I expect this person to apply the law fairly in each instance, regardless of party affiliation?

When people say this is one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime, it is not just hyperbole.

The issues the next attorney general will confront will require a response rooted in an empathetic understanding of the multifaceted issues Hoosiers are facing now. The well-being of the state depends on this type of leadership, and we should cast our votes knowing that our votes will determine the future we want for Indiana.

David Adeleye is a third-year law student at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. David currently serves on the National Board of Directors of the American Constitution Society. He previously worked in the Obama administration at the White House and U.S. Department of Homeland Security before law school.

Get stories like this in your inbox