Oregon's AG Race begins to take shape

Carla Axtman

Oregon's AG Race begins to take shape

The abrupt decision by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger not to seek reelection due to unspecified health reasons leaves a wide open seat for the job. This is one of those campaigns where my personal learning curve about the candidates is on a pretty steep Y axis. Consider this an introduction.

Although most of the Oregon media seems to think that there are only two candidates preparing for this office, by my count there are three: Dwight Holton, Ellen Rosenblum and Katherine Heekin. All three are Democrats.

More on the jump...

Dwight Holton is a former US attorney who has moved to a private firm so that he can run for Attorney General. Holton was a key player in getting Portland to rejoin the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Bryan Denson, The Oregonian:

The 46-year-old prosecutor also cites a leading role in campaigns against bullying, gang violence and prescription drug abuse. But he got major exposure at Christmastime in 2010, when the FBI arrested Mohamed Mohamud, a Somali-American accused of attempting to ignite a bomb next to a downtown tree-lighting ceremony.

Mozafar Wanly, an elder at the Salman Al-Farisi Mosque in Corvallis, recalled standing with Holton last summer when authorities announced that a local man had been arrested for setting fire to the mosque one day after Mohamud's arrest. Wanly said he had to fight back tears when he heard Holton say, "An attack on people because of their religion is an attack on all Americans, and we will not tolerate it."

Holton also has important out-of-state family ties. He's the son of former Virginia Governor A Linwood Holton and his brother-in-law, Tim Kaine also served as Virginia's governor and chair of the Democratic National Committee. In short, Holton probably has access to national money. Whether he'll need to actually tap into it...we'll see.

Ellen Rosenblum has worked both as an attorney and a judge. She's a graduate of the University of Oregon and practiced as a lawyer, handling civil matters and public defense. From 1980-88 she served in the US Attorneys Office. She later served as Multnomah County District judge before being appointed to the circuit court judge position by Barbara Roberts. In 2005, Gov. Ted Kulongoski then named her to the Court of Appeals.

Rosenblum was also the first sitting judge in the history of the American Bar Association to serve as as ABA officer. She is a member of the American Law Institute and a former chair of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. Which means Rosenblum probably also has access to national money.

Rosenblum also happens to be married to Richard Meeker, publisher of Willamette Week. In a rather stunning confessional, WW's editor Mark Zusman says that the paper won't be covering the race or making an endorsement, as there is a "conflict of interest". It's probably true that the paper would be accused by some of having a conflict if they made an endorsement, but is it really true that even their Pulitzer Prize winning reporter couldn't manage to cover the race in an unbiased way?

Katherine Heekin is a Portland attorney who founded her own law firm. Her practice is general civil litigation, focusing on fraud victims. Heekin graduated from Princeton University and the University of Oregon School of Law, where she was Executive Editor of the Oregon Law Review. She has served as president of the Oregon chapter of the Federal Bar Association and as chair of the Oregon State Bar's Uniform Civil Jury Instruction Committee. Heekin is a graduate of the Emerge Oregon program.

I've yet to meet any of the candidates in person and this is about as familiar with them as I've been able to get so far. If you've got experience or insight into one or more of them, please share in comments.


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    Katherine Heekin is smart, motivated and in touch with what is going on with people and has great priorities. I know her from the first Emerge Oregon class and think highly of her. I know she is willing to work hard once elected and work hard to get elected. She also has a skill set that is right on the mark for what we need; resolving business disputes, particularly complex, messy, fraud-related claims. She is not just an attorney but also a certified fraud examiner, trained in preventing and remedying fraud. I know I am glad she is in the race.

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    The Oregon Muslim Community would love to see Dwight Holton as our next Attorney General. He's caused quite a stir with his entrapment of a 19year old black teenage Muslim boy. Looking forward to seeing him defend his actions publicly during an election. Maybe now that he's working at a private law firm, we can hire him to get Mohamad Osman released. Inshallah!

    Dwight Holton has my vote even though Katherine is a good friend from our Emerge days. I can't wait to see him as Oregon's next Attorney General and then the U.S. Attorney General. Inshallah!

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    I know Dwight primarily as a law professor, but followed his work very closely when he was Oregon's U.S. Attorney. Dwight is not only extremely knowledgable about the law, he's a proven leader with a deep commitment to serving Oregonians.

    Despite tremendous demands on his time, Dwight was always approachable and made sure no student's question went unanswered. I have no doubt Dwight will take the same care with the concerns and issues of Oregon's citizens. I look forward to Dwight bringing his experience, leadership, and expertise to the Oregon Department of Justice.

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    Very excited that my good friend Dwight Holton is running for AG. Having served as acting U S Atty for quite a long time, Dwight has spectacularly relevant experience. Dwight has a special passion for environmental law enforcement, so you gotta like that. I need to talk with him about my idea of the state giving the counties a lump sum budget for all of public safety, including prison costs, so that DAs will need to sit down with other county officials and rationally allocate funds between prison and prevention / supervision. But he's a very smart man, so I'm sure I'll convince him.

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    I will add my support for Dwight.

    We will be incredibly lucky as a state to get Dwight as our AG. He not only has the experience as US Attorney, but he used the office to reach out to the community in a way that is a model for the country. In fact DOJ sent a team to Portland to see how he developed rapport with the Muslim community at the same time he prosecuted a potential terrorist.

    Dwight has an engaging personality that will enable him to win over citizens, county prosecutors, legislators, and the DOJ staff. At the same time he will push an independent, aggressive agenda for the DOJ.

    Lastly, Dwight comes from deep Democratic roots as Carla pointed out. His father was governor of Virginia during the desegregation of the state and Dwight and his sister were placed in integrated public schools while whites were fleeing to private schools. Dwight has been a strong supporter of civil rights ever since.

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      Dwight has strong roots, but they're not Democratic roots. His father was a Republican governor of Virginia.

      To be sure, that's not a knock on him or his father. Governor Linwood Holton was renowned for his repeated attempts to stop the segregationists from taking over the Virginia GOP. Once they'd succeeded, he started endorsing Democrats at an increasing clip - up to and including Tim Kaine (his son-in-law) and Barack Obama.

      A Virginia Republican from the 1970s is basically the same thing as a Virginia Democrat in the 2010s.

      Full disclosure: My firm is working with Katherine Heekin's campaign, but I speak only for myself.

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      I agree that Judge Rosenblum's experience assessing the DOJ's work product makes her the best candidate for the office. I have known her my entire life and have always been impressed by her enthusiasm, warmth and professionalism.

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      Ellen Rosenblum is known to Oregon State Bar members as a smart, well-informed judge. She is familiar with the types of legal issues which frequently arise in state government. These qualities make her the best candidate for Oregon AG.

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    I've known Dwight for almost ten years. Dwight mangaged an office with 115 people; led the proscution of a full array of legal challenges -- from terrorism, to environmental pollution, to securities fraud; and -- through his civic engagement -- gave the public confidence in the integrity, fairness and competence of DOJ. These reasons alone make him the right choice for AG. His experience simply cannot be matched. But I also admire Dwight for his willingness to listen, his basic sense of decency, and his love for Oregon and fidelity to the law. He will be an outstanding AG.

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    When I said serving as acting US Attorney gave Dwight highly relevant experience, I was actually thinking more about the management experience aspect than the crime aspect. The US Attorney, like the AG, runs a big law office.

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    I've been very impressed with Dwight Holton's tenure as U.S. Attorney. He is politically savvy, tough, fair and ethical--not an easy combination to carry off in the pressure cooker of the U.S. Attorney's office. Plus I echo what Steve Novick said--he is wicked smart.

    I'm eager to see what he can do as Oregon's top lawyer.

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    I admit it. I hate when I have to choose between two or more accomplished Democrats for public office... and I love that in Oregon I face that difficulty more often in a single year than Republicans have in a couple of decades.

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    I don't know Holton or Heekin. I do, however, know Ellen Rosenblum. Ellen's experience as a federal prosecutor, in private practice, on the trial bench, and on the appellate court, together with her strong Oregon ties, give her a perspective that can only benefit the people of Oregon. She is a smart lawyer and a good administrator. But more importantly, she understands the role of the attorney general's office in Oregon. I believe that she knows that the office is about so much more than high-profile cases and political gain. She recognizes the need for an attorney general who will competently handle the day-to-day legal affairs of the state and who will manage an office of over a thousand lawyer and non-lawyer personnel. Ellen will bring the "whole package" to the office.

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    Carla, you are right that it is bizarre that Willamette Week says they won't even cover the race. No endorsement, sure. Not cover? Way to serve the public interest. What does that say about WW's internal editorial policy? There ought to be a way for them to create special arrangements if Mark Zusman thinks his relationship with Richard Meeker and Ellen Rosenblum undermines his editorial judgment.

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    Dwight's stint as acting U.S. Attorney is what sold me on his candidacy. He demonstrated repeatedly that he can handle high-profile, high-pressure issues under the glare of the media spotlight. That's what I want in an attorney general.

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