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The Oregon Attorney General Race and the War on Drugs

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Jill Harris has a nice summary of the Oregon Attorney General race, one of the most interesting and potentially important downticket races this year. Because the Republicans stupidly decided not to run someone here, it’s being decided in the upcoming Democratic primary on May 15 (and under Oregon mail voting laws, people are already sending in their ballots).

Although there are 2 Democrats running, they are different as night and day. This has turned into a single-issue race: medical marijuana and drug decriminalization. Former Interim U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton is running on his record as a drug buster, using all the typical anti-drug hysteria one would expect. The other candidate, Ellen Rosenblum, is a former judge who didn’t intend on running on medical marijuana, but when the ground began to shift, stated her progressive position on it, even visiting medical marijuana clinics on campaign stops.

A Holton victory certainly will not only put the clamps down on Oregon’s medical marijuana laws but will be a pretty big defeat for those who support these laws. If a pro-medical pot candidate can’t win in Oregon, can one win anywhere? The upshot of a Rosenblum victory is a bit less clear to me. With Obama’s increasingly aggressive crackdown on marijuana growers and the continued hostility of law enforcement, I don’t know that it moves Oregon off of the standoff it already has with the feds. But it would be a rare case of a state’s top law enforcement officer being elected on an explicitly pro-medical marijuana platform and that’s meaningful.

Harris doesn’t provide any polling data. Internal polls have each candidate ahead, with Rosenblum’s poll giving her a sizable lead and Holton’s a small one. Neither poll seems all that telling to me. Given that this is a Democratic primary in Oregon and not a general election, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see Rosenblum win. And this gets back to the stupidity of Republicans for not running someone. I don’t know whether Rosenblum could win a statewide race against a credible Republican on this platform. It’s possible, but I don’t see how it wasn’t worth a shot at least for Republicans. Of course, given the Oregon Republican Party’s complete lack of credibility (please continue to nominate right-wing extremists and indifferent athletes in a state dominated by Portland and Eugene!), they might not have anyone credible to run.

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