Voters Oust Progressive Prosecutor in Portland

Voters Oust Progressive Prosecutor in Portland

Mike Schmidt, the progressive prosecutor in Portland, Ore., who has held office during a tumultuous period of street protests, drug overdoses and violent crime, lost his seat to a co-worker who has called for more aggressive prosecution of criminals, The Associated Press said on Wednesday.

The co-worker, Nathan Vasquez, a deputy district attorney in the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, had mounted a campaign that blamed Mr. Schmidt for the city’s recent problems. Mr. Schmidt, a Democrat, was one of a series of progressive prosecutors around the country who had vowed to reshape the criminal justice system.

But in the years since Mr. Schmidt’s election in 2020, voters in Portland have signaled an interest in cracking down on crime and homelessness. As businesses fled the city center, people reported feeling unsafe on the streets. Homicides and overdoses soared.

Mr. Vasquez called for a new approach, setting up a bitter campaign against his boss. He promised to take on lawless behavior and petty crimes, differentiating himself from Mr. Schmidt, who had won four years ago with pledges to move away from focusing on low-level crimes.

Mr. Schmidt tried to highlight the progress seen in the last year, when car thefts dropped rapidly and homicides were coming down from record highs. He backed an effort to partially roll back Oregon’s drug decriminalization law.

Mr. Vasquez, an independent who previously was a registered Republican, is the latest public official in a West Coast city to be elected with a promise to be tougher on crime. In 2021, voters in Seattle elected a Republican as the city prosecutor after she vowed more action on low-level crimes. The next year, voters in San Francisco recalled the progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin.

The district attorney position in Portland is nonpartisan, and with only two candidates on the primary ballot Mr. Vasquez’s victory means he is set to take over the office next year.

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