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Incumbent faces two non-lawyers; campaign limits and tobacco tax increase are proposed.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum faces two non-lawyers in her bid for a third term in the Nov. 3 general election.

Spending on two statewide ballot measures is also lopsided.

Rosenblum, 69, is a Democrat from Portland elected in 2012. She was appointed after her predecessor resigned six months early and she had just won a contested primary for the open position.

She is the first woman to hold the job.

After graduation from the University of Oregon, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1971 and her law degree in 1975, Rosenblum was at a Eugene law firm for five years. From 1980 to 1989, she was an assistant U.S. attorney in Eugene and Portland. She was appointed a Multnomah County judge in 1989, and to the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2005. She retired from the bench in 2011.

Rosenblum has raised more than $500,000 and spent more than $400,000 for her reelection campaign.

"As Oregon's first woman attorney general, she stands up to anyone who aims to harm or take advantage of the people of our state, from Big Pharma to the federal government," her Voters Pamphlet statement said.

She has initiated or joined almost two dozen lawsuits against actions by the federal government under President Donald Trump during the past four years.

Her opponents have raised less than $8,000.

Michael Cross, 54, is the Republican nominee, a truck driver and software designer from Turner south of Salem. He led a failed effort in 2019 to recall Gov. Kate Brown.

Lars D.H. Hedbor, 51, is the Libertarian nominee, a former state party chair, and a technical writer and author from Beaverton. He won 3% of the votes cast for attorney general as the party's nominee in 2016. He lost a bid to unseat Richard Burke from the Tualatin Valley Water District board in 2015.

Cross and Hedbor are Air Force veterans. Neither are lawyers.

Unlike judges, Oregon law does not require the attorney general to be a lawyer. However, all 17 attorneys general since the office was created in 1891 have been lawyers. The attorney general leads the Department of Justice, which has more than 1,400 employees and a two-year budget exceeding $650 million.

The attorney general is the state's chief legal officer, representing the state in state and federal courts. But most criminal prosecutions are initiated by district attorneys in Oregon's 36 counties.

Cross's statement in the state Voters Pamphlet went after Rosenblum for defending Gov. Brown's stay-at-home orders during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and for challenging the presence of federal agents using unmarked cars and detaining people in Portland. In the first case — where the attorney general was obligated to defend the state — the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the governor's authority to issue such orders. In the second case, a judge ruled that the state had no legal standing to sue.

Hedbor has no Voters Pamphlet statement and has raised no money.

Two measures

Measures 107 and 108 were referred to the statewide ballot by the Oregon Legislature in 2019.

Measure 107 would amend Oregon's constitutional guarantee of free expression to allow campaign contribution limits, which the Oregon Supreme Court overturned in 1997 after voters approved them in 1994. The high court reversed its previous interpretation in a Multnomah County case on April 23.

Approval of the measure would not automatically impose limits, which the Legislature or voters would have to pass.

State Sens. Shemia Fagan of Portland and Kim Thatcher of Keizer, the Democratic and Republican nominees for Oregon secretary of state, support Measure 107. But Kyle Markley of Hillsboro, the Libertarian nominee, submitted all but one of the Voters Pamphlet arguments against it.

Supporters have spent about $150,000; there is no single opposition committee, although the Advance Liberty committee opposes all four statewide ballot measures.

Oregon is among a handful of states with no limits on contributions or spending.

Measure 108 would raise Oregon's cigarette tax by $2 — the current tax is $1.33 per pack — extend the tax to vaping products such as electronic cigarettes and increase the per-cigar tax from 50 cents to $1. All the money would go to the Oregon Health Authority for health care for low-income people and for programs aimed at tobacco-related diseases.

Exempt from the proposed tax are products for tobacco-use cessation and for marijuana vaping.

The increased tax would put Oregon on a par with rates in California and Washington, and far above the 87 cents (including sales tax) in Idaho. The higher tax would take effect Jan. 1.

Supporters have raised $11.5 million in 2019 and $1.9 million this year, bracing for a big campaign. They have spent $7.9 million. But opponents have raised just $7,000. It's a far cry from 2007, when major tobacco companies spent what was then a record $12 million to defeat an 85-cent tax increase proposed to expand health insurance coverage for children. (The Legislature funded an expansion in 2009 by other means.)

Opposition arguments were filed by the Taxpayers Association of Oregon and Eric Fruits, a vice president of the Cascade Policy Institute, a free market think tank in Portland.

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NOTE: Updates with Hedbor's vote share as the Libertarian nominee for the same office in 2016.


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