Joe Hogsett pushes anti-crime package
Joe Hogsett said he entered the race for Indiana attorney general late and ‘rather unconventionally.’
A few months ago, he appeared to have it made as chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party. Then Gov. Joe Kernan tapped him on the shoulder. He wanted Hogsett, Indiana’s secretary of state when Evan Bayh was governor and Frank O’Bannon of Corydon was lieutenant governor, to run for Indiana attorney general. Hogsett, 47, had managed two campaigns for Bayh and Hogsett ran, unsuccessfully, for Congress (Second District in 1994) and the U.S. Senate (1992) as well.
Kernan convinced Hogsett that he and Hogsett and Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis would be a strong ticket, running against GOP candidates Mitch Daniels, Becky Skillman and Steve Carter. Hogsett said yes to Kernan the day before the registration deadline and the day before the Indiana Democratic Convention in Indianapolis in mid-June.
Now the Rushville native has thrown himself into the campaign, touring the state, distributing position papers, and hoping to persuade voters why he would be a better attorney general than the incumbent, Republican Steve Carter.
Hogsett said he wants to be a nonpartisan ‘people’s prosecutor,’ not a ‘super prosecutor.’ He thinks local law enforcement officials and prosecutors would respond eagerly to ‘meaningful assistance and support’ from the attorney general’s office in Indianapolis in local efforts to investigate and bring capital murder cases to trial, battle the growing methamphetamine epidemic, protect consumers from identity theft, and eliminate sex offender list confusion.
He’s pushing a ‘Protect Indiana’ anti-crime package that has several key parts:
‘ Consolidate Indiana’s two sex offender registries in the attorney general’s office to guarantee more accountability and fully implement the way ‘Zachary’s Law’ was intended to protect children and other vulnerable people.
‘ Aggressive enforcement of death penalty sentences.
‘ An innovative statewide program to stop the spread of methamphetamine labs and meth use.
‘ New efforts to battle identity thieves.
‘ Aggressive pursuit of Medicaid fraud.
‘ Protecting the elderly from abuse in nursing homes.
Hogsett said last week in Corydon that he has the credentials to be a responsive, active attorney general who will ‘keep up with changing times.’ He graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington in 1981 and has been licensed to practice law for 23 years. He was Indiana’s secretary of state for six years, from 1988 to 1994. He said he went after white-collar criminals and corrupt lobbyists while streamlining the secretary of state’s office, reducing its staff and cutting its budget, and making it easier for corporations to do business in Indiana.
Regarding his interest in helping local prosecutors pursue death penalty cases, Hogsett said, ‘I support the death penalty. If a prosecutor needs our help to investigate or prosecute a capital case, he or she will get it. And I’ll see to it that justice is served by making sure that the death sentence convictions they secure will stand.’
Indiana is one of the top six states in methamphetamine production. Hogsett said he would borrow a plan called ‘Statewide Meth Watch’ from Kansas that helps retailers of over-the-counter precursor ingredients identify suspect purchases and encourage them to work with local law enforcement.
Hogsett said the state sex offender registry, created in 1994, needs more oversight. He said the attorney general’s office should administer one central statewide list ‘to guarantee accountability and provide more protection to Indiana’s children and other vulnerable Hoosiers.’ There are two lists, and information often doesn’t match, which is confusing.
After law school, Hogsett joined an Indianapolis law firm, now Bingham McHale.
A practicing believer in life-long learning, Hogsett has been collecting master’s degrees since he earned his law degree: He earned one in English from Butler University in 1987, in theology at Christian Theological Seminary in 1999, and he has completed course work and thesis work for a master’s in history from Indiana University. His thesis topic? The 1988 Republican residency challenge to Evan Bayh’s candidacy for governor.
The Indiana Supreme Court decided unanimously to uphold Bayh’s candidacy (he had lived and worked in Washington, D.C., for a while before declaring for governor). The legal question was also a problem for Frank O’Bannon of Corydon, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, because, if Bayh were declared ineligible, O’Bannon had to be ready in the wings, and thus his name remained on the primary election ballot for governor.
Att. Gen. Carter has proposed that he and Hogsett have five or six debates before Labor Day, with one on TV in Indianapolis, another at the I.U. Law School and another at the Valparaiso Law School, as a way of involving law students in the political process. Hogsett said he would rather have all the debates before a live statewide TV audience of voters and close to election day.
Hogsett and his wife, Stephanie, have two sons. Hogsett is lay leader and a trustee at their church, Robert Parks United Methodist in Indianapolis.