Centrist Challenger’s Portland DA Win a Warning for Democrats

The loss for a far-left prosecutor in the race for Oregon’s district attorney highlights the fine line Democrats must walk on public safety and crime concerns in the run-up to the November election.

A fellow prosecutor, Nathan Vasquez, ran a primary challenge against Mike Schmidt, the Portland area’s prosecutor, and won by around eight points. Vasquez portrayed himself as harder on crime than Schmidt.  

A shocking reversal of fortunes befell Schmidt, who had been elected on a platform of progressive values months before the 2020 riots that followed the death of George Floyd.

Efforts to decriminalize drugs have met with increasing resistance in dark-blue Oregon, which has also seen skyrocketing crime, the third-highest incidence of homelessness in the United States, and escalating tensions related to the fentanyl epidemic.

His defeat comes at a time when Republicans have been relentless in their attacks on Democrats on those topics in the run-up to the election. Even in traditionally Republican-leaning areas, many saw the race as illuminating how serious a problem crime is.

Oregon’s Secretary of State website reports that, out of the total number of votes cast, Nathan Vasquez received 54%, and Schmidt got 45%.

Four years after Floyd’s death sparked a spike in demands for police reform and some on the left to escalate calls to “defund the police,” Schmidt’s loss this week is just one of several recent instances indicating that Democrat voters want distance from leftist ideals.

Because of a candidate’s call for police abolition, Seattle voters in 2021 elected a Republican to the position of city attorney.

Two years ago, San Franciscans ousted Chesa Boudin, a candidate for district attorney who had campaigned on a platform of far-left changes in 2020.

Pamela Price, a progressive DA in California’s Alameda County, is up for a recall this year. Her opponents say she’s not doing enough to enforce the law, punish offenders, and prevent dangerous offenders from committing crimes in the county.

Democrats in government have been trying to disavow the “defund the police” phrase since the violent summer of 2020.