The Joe Pags Show

The Joe Pags Show

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Portland voters oust soft-on-crime progressive District Attorney

Facing a surge in crime and homelessness, Portland voters have elected Nathan Vasquez, a former Republican, as their next district attorney, ousting incumbent Mike Schmidt and his progressive agenda. This election has drawn national attention, highlighting a significant shift in public sentiment against the progressive prosecutor movement that gained traction after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

Local station KPTV declared Vasquez the winner on Tuesday evening shortly after primary results began to come in. With ballots still being counted, Vasquez leads Schmidt 55.7 percent to 43.8 percent, reflecting a decisive 12-point lead for the challenger. Schmidt’s defeat is part of a broader backlash against progressive policies in Oregon, a state known for its left-leaning politics.

The race between Schmidt and Vasquez, one of Schmidt’s former deputies, has been seen as a bellwether for the future of progressive prosecution. Vasquez, who was a registered Republican until he distanced himself from the party due to “disgust” with Donald Trump’s rise, focused his campaign on the decline in police staffing and prosecution rates during Schmidt’s tenure. “Prior to him coming into office, we ranged somewhere between 12,000 to 20,000 cases a year,” Vasquez told Politico. “Under him, post-Covid, we were under 6,000.”

Portland shattered its homicide record in 2021 with 92 murders and again in 2022 with 101 killings, according to OregonLive data. Although violent crime in Portland decreased last year, it remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels. A report by a state government commission indicated that violent crime in Oregon surged nearly 17 percent in the year following Schmidt’s election and remains above pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, violent crime in Oregon was still 16.6 percent higher than in 2019, based on FBI data reported by Axios.

A 2022 survey revealed that 60 percent of Portland residents had a negative impression of the city’s downtown, primarily due to homelessness. In response, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) has proposed banning homeless encampments on public property, a measure Schmidt indicated he would consider on a case-by-case basis. Wheeler’s fiscal year 2024 budget includes substantial additional funding for police to hire new officers and improve response times.

National Review explains Vasquez campaigned against Schmidt’s support for ending cash bail and his lower rate of prosecution for misdemeanor offenses. He also criticized Schmidt’s previous support for Measure 110, Oregon’s drug decriminalization measure, which was followed by a surge in overdose deaths. Although Oregon partially rolled back the measure earlier this year, Schmidt continued to support the decriminalization of hard drugs.

Schmidt was originally elected in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter riots following George Floyd’s murder. His office declined to prosecute many protesters for lower-level offenses under a policy of “preemptive decline.” Vasquez argued that this policy severely damaged the relationship between Schmidt’s office and the Portland police, leading to a significant decline in police morale and staffing.

Law enforcement unions and local activist group People for Portland supported Vasquez, a veteran prosecutor with two decades of experience. An OregonLive poll last month showed Vasquez leading with 50 percent to Schmidt’s 31 percent, with 19 percent undecided. Among voters who identified crime as the most pressing issue, 70 percent favored Vasquez, while only 4 percent supported Schmidt.

This shift in voter sentiment reflects a growing discontent with progressive prosecutors in blue cities nationwide. San Francisco recalled district attorney Chesa Boudin (D) in 2022, and Alameda County district attorney Pamela Price (D) faces a recall this November. In 2021, Seattle elected a Republican city attorney over a police abolitionist, driven by concerns over public safety.

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