Oregon has two strong candidates for Attorney General. Ellen Rosenblum has spent more than 30 years as a circuit and appeals court judge and as an assistant federal prosecutor in the Oregon courts. Dwight Holton has 15 years of experience as an assistant federal prosecutor, in New York and Oregon, and almost two years as U.S Attorney for Oregon.
The Skanner News editorial board spent a long time deciding on this race, but in the end we chose Rosenblum because she is crystal-clear on the problems of Measure 11 and her strong willingness to find ways to turn back the tide on the disproportionate number of American Americans in prisons – especially youth.
Rosenblum – who is not endorsed by any law enforcement unions or special interest groups while Holton is endorsed literally by dozens of them – clearly showed the most potential in making a concrete difference in these issues, which have destroyed whole families in this state and are clearly rooted in biased policy.
Both candidates said they plan to beef up the Attorney General's new Civil Rights division with more staff and support, but neither offered a concrete way of paying for it.
Rosenblum has a long history of accomplishments in Oregon. As a federal prosecutor she sent financial criminals to prison. As a circuit court judge she decided cases involving everything from consumer fraud to child welfare and domestic violence.
During our endorsement interview Rosenblum surprised us with ideas we had never considered, in particular the role the Attorney General could play in making the state a better place for small businesses to thrive. Despite Holton's attempt to paint her as "not an advocate," the fact is that Rosenblum was a founding force behind Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, a program bringing kids together with their incarcerated mothers.
The Attorney General should have the experience, diplomacy and clout to bring together key players in our state to solve contentious legal problems— as well as the courage to advocate for Oregon laws and values.
Rosenblum's knowledge of Oregon law and institutions is wide as well as deep. She knows exactly how the state's legal system operates, and how to achieve consensus among her peers.
Since African Americans and other communities of color are among those most affected by incarceration policy, we need an attorney general who will speak out for best practices in our justice system. Holding youth accountable for their crimes should not obstruct opportunities for atonement, rehabilitation and a second chance to become a positive contributing member of society.
On the issue of missteps and lack of local control over the Joint Terrorism Task Force – recently in the headlines because an African immigrant claims he was tortured at the behest of the Portland FBI office – Holton's position was troublingly vague. He advocates "building relationships" as a way to improve operations between the FBI and African immigrant and Muslim communities; this is the very least the attorney general's office can do. This is a crucial issue in Oregon, as more and more Muslims and immigrant youth are being entrapped by the FBI in so-called "terrorism" stings. This issue is real: In 2009 Muslim attorney Brandon Mayfield won a $2 million settlement from the FBI after being ludicrously linked by local officials to a train bombing in Madrid, Spain.
Both Holton and Rosenblum are highly respected, competent and committed to protecting vulnerable Oregonians. Both have racked up a formidable list of endorsements.
Those qualities will matter as the state decides how to move forward in a time of diminishing resources. This year, for example, the governor's Commission on Public Safety will be working on a plan to reduce the high costs of incarceration without compromising public safety.
We're confident Rosenblum will act in the interests of everyday people on sentencing reform – not special interests that benefit from heightened incarceration rates.
Vote Ellen Rosenblum for Attorney General.
Other endorsements by The Skanner News:
Secretary of State
22nd District Chip Shields
43rd District Lew Frederick
To see all The Skanner News Endorsements for the May 15 Primary Election, click here