Attorney general: Dwight Holton

Oregon's attorney general has a wide range of responsibilities, from serving as the state's top law enforcement official to providing legal advice and representation to the agencies of state government. This year's campaign to replace departing Attorney General John Kroger pits two eminently qualified candidates against each other in the Democratic primary.

No Republican filed, so either Ellen Rosenblum or Dwight Holton likely will win the seat. We would not be unhappy with either, but Holton has the edge.

Kroger, elected in 2008, announced last year that he would not seek re-election because of an undisclosed health condition. This week he announced he will step down this summer to become president of Reed College.

Kroger, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Lewis and Clark School of Law, shook up the traditionally quiet Attorney General's Office, taking an activist approach and raising the profile of the office. In the process, he ruffled some feathers in Salem and did not achieve all he set out to do, including overhauling the state's public records and public meetings laws.

Rosenblum, 61, retired from the state Court of Appeals last year after working in private practice, as an assistant U.S. attorney and as a trial court judge. She says she decided to run for attorney general when Kroger announced he was not seeking re-election.

Rosenblum's supporters include former attorneys general Dave Frohnmayer and Hardy Myers and former governor Barbara Roberts, who appointed her to the Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Holton, 45, served as chief of criminal prosecutions in the U.S. Attorney's Office, then was appointed interim, U.S. attorney for Oregon in 2010. He built a record of prosecuting white-collar crime, including mortgage fraud, and going after environmental polluters.

Holton has the support of many of the state's district attorneys and sheriffs, as well as outgoing Attorney General Kroger.

Holton says he shares Kroger's belief that the Justice Department should be a high-profile advocate for public safety initiatives, consumer protection and environmental enforcement, but he says his management experience will make him a more collaborative attorney general.

Rosenblum contrasts her long Oregon career with that of Holton, who moved to Portland in 2002. But Holton impresses us with his clear grasp of Southern Oregon issues, especially drug abuse treatment and prevention efforts. He knows the state well, and the people who work in law enforcement on the local level support him.

Jackson County voters should make Dwight Holton Oregon's next attorney general.

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