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Centrist challenger defeats progressive DA in Portland, CNN projects

By Josh Campbell and Shania Shelton, CNN

(CNN) — Portland’s progressive district attorney, Mike Schmidt, has been defeated in his bid for reelection by one of his deputies, who styled himself as being tougher on crime, CNN projects.

It’s the third time in as many years that a major West Coast city has ousted its DA over apparent concerns about crime. Portland’s vote this week is particularly notable given the unrest in the city following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the summer of 2020 and a recent surge in drug overdoses that prompted the declaration of a state of emergency.

“It is looking as if I will not be serving another four years as Multnomah County District Attorney,” Schmidt said in a statement obtained by CNN affiliate KOIN. “I have called Nathan Vasquez to congratulate him on his victory.”

While results in Tuesday’s nonpartisan election have not been certified, unofficial results on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website as of 10:00 a.m. ET Friday showed Vasquez ahead of Schmidt, 53.3% to 46.3%.

Vasquez, a prosecutor in Multnomah County since 2001, made public safety a key component of his campaign for office. “We must take lawless behavior seriously and enforce our laws,” his campaign platform said. “Even ‘petty’ crimes, like theft, vandalism, and littering, public use of illicit drugs and public highs, all contribute to the overall feeling of safety and wellbeing of a community.”

Vasquez told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that the community in Portland is still very progressive and is not abandoning those values with his election.

“Really what they’re looking for, though, is a balance,” he said. “They want public safety and they want it delivered in a professional manner. And that’s why I came forward with the experience I have to do that in a way that kind of respects our values in this community, but also makes sure that victims and public safety are our priority.”

He also said, “There were things that got off track, and I believe the community now is ready for a different vision — one that involves more public safety, but still has a strong place for progressive values.”

As CNN has reported, state and local officials declared a fentanyl state of emergency in January for parts of downtown Portland following a surge in overdoses.

Last month, Oregon’s Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek signed legislation re-criminalizing the possession of certain drugs, roughly three years after the state became the first in the nation to decriminalize the possession and personal use of all drugs.

The shakeup in Portland comes as public safety issues have driven prosecutor races in other West Coast cities in recent years.

Voters in San Francisco recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin in 2022 amid concern that he was advancing progressive policies as a national criminal justice reform advocate at the cost of their safety, and in 2021, voters in Seattle elected Ann Davison, a Republican, as city attorney over a challenger who had called for abolishing jails and police, CNN affiliate KIRO reported.

In Los Angeles, District Attorney George Gascón has survived two recall efforts ahead of his election in November.

CNN’s Taylor Romine and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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