Oregon DA Defeated in Primary Due to ‘Soft-on-Crime’ Criticism


Mike Schmidt, the district attorney for Multnomah County in Oregon who faced criticism for being too “soft on crime,” lost his primary race to one of his own deputy prosecutors.

Schmidt was defeated by Nathan Vasquez, who secured about 54% of the vote as of Wednesday evening. Schmidt’s loss could signal a trend for other progressive district attorneys nationwide as some major cities encounter rising crime rates.

“The voters have made it clear that they are ready to take our county in a new and safer direction,” Vasquez said in a Facebook post Wednesday celebrating the victory.

Schmidt was initially appointed to the position in August 2020 amid a summer of social justice protests following the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minnesota earlier that year. Shortly after assuming office, Schmidt announced that protesters would not be prosecuted unless they were charged with specific crimes such as property damage, theft, or threat of force against another person.

Nathan Vasquez responds to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, not seen, during a candidate debate hosted by The Oregonian and KGW news at KGW’s studio the evening of Thursday., May 2, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. (Dave Killen /The Oregonian via AP)

However, his office would not pursue cases involving interference with police officers or other misconduct against law enforcement.

Supported by various police groups, Vasquez opposed Schmidt’s lenient approach to protesters and his endorsement of a 2020 ballot measure that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs. Schmidt later advocated for reinstating criminal penalties for “personal use” possession of heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone, and other hard drugs.

Schmidt’s defeat is part of a larger pattern affecting progressive prosecutors across the country.

Pamela Price, the district attorney in Alameda County, California, is facing a recall election over similar criticism later this year, just two years after San Francisco voters ousted progressive Chesa Boudin.

Others have managed to withstand such challenges, including Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, who has faced two unsuccessful recall attempts since first being elected in 2020.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and challenger Nathan Vasquez, not photographed, participate in a DA candidate debate hosted by The Oregonian and KGW news at KGW’s studio the evening of Thursday., May 2, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. (Dave Killen /The Oregonian via AP)

Progressives in Oregon experienced other defeats during the state’s primaries on Tuesday, including Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who lost the primary to face Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) for her contested seat. McLeod-Skinner was beaten by Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum, who was supported by the Democratic establishment.

Additionally, Susheela Jayapal, sister of House Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), lost to Democratic challenger Maxine Dexter in the 3rd Congressional District.

Cami Mondeaux
Cami Mondeaux
Congressional Reporter. A Utah native, Cami graduated from Westminster College in Salt Lake City in 2021 and covered state government as a breaking news reporter for KSL News Radio.

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