SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline)-The race for Oregon attorney general is heating up as the two Democrats vying for the post start to amass newspaper endorsements ahead of the Beaver State's May 20 primary.
Running for a chance to lead the Oregon Department of Justice is veteran state legislator Rep. Greg Macpherson and law school professor John Kroger. There is no Republican running.
The two candidates have debated extensively what would make a better attorney general: A seasoned lawmaker or a veteran federal prosecutor?
Macpherson, an employee benefits attorney at the Portland firm of Stoel Rives LLP, the state's largest private law firm, has said his time in the state Legislature gives him a unique advantage over his opponent.
However, pointing to his experience as a federal prosecutor putting away drug kingpins and corporate scofflaws, Kroger says his vast trial experience has prepared him to fight for Oregonians.
They are seeking to replace retiring Attorney General Hardy Myers, a low-key politician who has led the Oregon Department of Justice since 1996.
Endorsing Macpherson on Friday, The (Portland) Oregonian pointed to his tenure as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and his role in overhauling the state's Public Employees Retirement System, something which some observers say cost him support from the state's biggest unions.
"Macpherson ... created both an effective improvement in the state pension situation and a serious union resentment," the newspaper said. "Macpherson's service to the state on PERS should be an occasion for reward rather than revenge."
The state's largest newspaper said for his part Kroger has brought to the campaign some "inviting ideas", including prosecuting environmental polluters, and using the office's bully pulpit, "although that may not be the key task for the leader of a 300-lawyer law firm."
Macpherson has been also endorsed by Myers, Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski and by many of his Democratic legislative colleagues.
Meanwhile, Kroger, who is backed by the state's three largest labor organizations-the AFL-CIO, SEIU Locals 503 and 49 and the Oregon Education Association-was endorsed this week by the (Roseburg) News-Review.
The central Oregon newspaper said despite his brief time living in the state, Kroger has a grasp of the many problems facing Oregon.
"He moved to Oregon a little more than five years ago and is a former federal prosecutor. He's represented the United States in court more than 1,000 times and also worked for both Bill Clinton and Al Gore," the editorial said. "He says his courtroom experience and strong background in public safety distinguish him for the job."
Kroger has also been endorsed by, among others, many of the state's district attorneys and former Gov. John Kitzhaber, a fellow Democrat.
In an earlier interview, Oregon State University political science Professor Bill Lunch told LNL that voters rely heavily on endorsements in the race for attorney general, partly because of a lack of understanding of the AG's function.
"This is one of those relatively obscure offices from the point of the view of the man or woman on the street; so, voters rely more on endorsements for attorney general more than they might for other offices," Lunch said.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.