Opinion: Why I hope to serve again as the 'People's Attorney'
This has been a challenging, difficult and incredibly painful year for all Oregonians and for our state.
A pandemic. Tragic deaths. The acknowledgment of serious racial injustice and deep economic inequality. A major economic downturn. The worst wildfires in modern Oregon history accompanied by more tragedies and a complicated recovery.
And behind all this an increasingly unhinged president, seemingly determined to undermine the bedrock of our democracy — and to use our state as a staging ground for his illegal and unconstitutional campaign antics.
As many theologians and philosophers have noted, the bigger the challenges we face, the greater the opportunities to improve ourselves in the longer run. I believe that, and I believe public service is one of the tools we have to improve the lot of all of us.
But first we have to attend to the work at hand. For me and the Oregon Department of Justice, that is a major undertaking.
The arrival of the coronavirus dramatically expanded the legal issues facing my clients — the state of Oregon, all its agencies, and its people. It meant increased efforts at consumer protection, particularly in fighting price gouging and preventing false claims for so-called "cures" for the virus.
It also meant defending the governor's executive authority before the Oregon Supreme Court. I hate to think how many Oregonians would have gotten sick or died if we'd not done our part.
The downturn in the economy brings with it added legal challenges — and underscores the great importance of the work my office does with our modernized computer system to collect and distribute one-third of a billion dollars in child support every year while looking out for vulnerable families.
Questions of racial injustice have been at the forefront of my policy-related work throughout my time as AG, but even more so now.
As our elected representatives try to fashion meaningful remedies that point us toward a fairer, more just future, I'm doing my best to support those most involved in this work. And I bring to these efforts my own experiences running statewide task forces charged with addressing police profiling and hate crimes.
I've also done more than any AG before me to improve transparency and make our government's records more readily available.
During difficult times like these, the more open government is, the more trust the public can have in it.
As with the pandemic, the wildfires brought sudden and complex legal issues to the fore for our client agencies. My office responded quickly and effectively, and even assisted with emergency communications efforts.
In short, while I've been in charge, the Oregon Department of Justice has been a part of the solution.
In its breadth and complexity, the role of attorney general has called upon all my training and experience as a lawyer in private practice, as a federal prosecutor working in every corner of the state, as a Multnomah County trial judge and statewide appellate court judge — and, most recently, as your attorney general.
The one role I have not exactly relished is fighting back against our president and his administration. The federal government is supposed to be our friend and helper — not our enemy. But from the moment he took office, the current president has turned this basic American equation on its head.
Every time the president has taken an action that would imperil Oregonians, I have fought back — against the travel ban, against environmental rollbacks, against efforts to limit our reproductive freedoms, and, most recently, against his attempts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.
In this role, I've basically been Oregon's first line of defense against actions I believe to be unlawful and harmful to the people of our state.
If you put all of this together, you can see why I'm running for a third term as Oregon's attorney general and why I feel as excited and energized by this work as I was when I got started eight years ago. Even if there is a change of administration come January, it will take years to undo the damage that has been inflicted, and the basic institutions of public life are going to require ongoing — and crucially important — legal work. Alongside that will lie all the work we have before us to reclaim our state's future. Leaders with experience and expertise will be essential to the success of that effort. Oregon — and America — will get right again, and I'm eager to do my part.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat, is running for reelection.
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