Progressive Oregon district attorney ousted by tough-on-crime challenger

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A centrist district attorney candidate in Oregon has ousted his incumbent progressive opponent after running on a tough-on-crime platform.

Nathan Vasquez previously served as a deputy prosecutor to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt. Vasquez won Tuesday’s nonpartisan primary election after returns showed him receiving more than 50% of the vote.

Vasquez, who was endorsed by several police groups, said Schmidt conceded the election during a Wednesday phone call. He was a prosecutor in the DA’s office for more than 20 years. 

“I want to thank him for his professionalism and service to our community,” Vasquez said in a post on his campaign Facebook page. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the DA’s office, with community partners, and with the public to help build a safer Multnomah County for all of us.”

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Schmidt came into office days before the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the calls for changes to the criminal justice system that came amid racial justice protests in Portland and other cities nationwide. Other DAs ushered into office in liberal bastions like San Francisco and Seattle around the same time have since faced setbacks amid frustrations from the public over crime.

Generally, those district attorneys have supported finding alternatives to imprisonment and have refrained from prosecuting low-level crimes to reduce incarceration rates and address social inequities in the criminal justice system.

Critics have said such policies enable criminals and public safety risks.  

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Mike Schmidt and Portland protests split image

Shortly after taking office, racial justice demonstrations gripped Portland as chaos erupted on the streets nearly every night for months. Schmidt announced that his office wouldn’t prosecute protesters unless they were arrested for deliberate property damage, theft, or the use or threat of force against another person. Interfering with a police officer, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass were cited as examples of cases his office would decline.

Vasquez announced the policy, as well as Schmidt’s support for a 2020 voter-approved measure that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs. Earlier this year, state lawmakers rolled back the law and restored criminal penalties for so-called “personal use” possession amid one of the nation’s largest spikes in overdose fatalities. 

Schmidt supported the move. 

Person drops off their vote-by-mail ballot at a dropbo

In his message, Vasquez said he was “committed to ending open-air drug dealing and drug use while helping connect individuals to treatment, to rebuilding the broken relationships between the DA’s office and the community, and to ensuring that victims are the number one priority of my office.”

Fox News Digital has reached out to Schmidt’s campaign. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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