As Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum seeks her third term in office, she faces a non-lawyer in Republican Michael Cross.
Cross, 54, of Turner, is known for his efforts to recall Gov. Kate Brown in 2019. He says he will provide a “fresh set of eyes” to the office.
Libertarian candidate Lars D. H. Hedbor also is on the ballot.
Incumbent Rosenblum, 69, says Oregon needs an attorney general with experience and knowledge of law who will stand up for the most vulnerable in the state against threats to their rights and well being. She said she can do just that.
Cross said he is running for office because he is alarmed by what was going on in Oregon.
“I love Oregon,” Cross said. “I saw it turning into something that was losing its charm and appeal.”
Cross led an effort to recall Gov. Kate Brown in 2019, which garnered more than 200,000 signatures, but fell short of the 280,050 valid signatures needed. Still, the campaign was a build-up of momentum that pushed him to run for attorney general.
“So many elected officials have forgotten that they work for us … and they seem too flippant, like this status of elitism, and that’s what’s gotten us into trouble,” he said. “They are our public servants.”
Cross received a diploma in 1984 from Fairview High School in Chico, California. He took business courses at Butte College in Chico and served in the U.S. Air Force between 1984 and 1988 and attended Community College of U.S. Air Force where he received a helicopter mechanic certificate. He also earned a leadership certificate from the Noncommissioned Officer Leadership course through the Air Force.
He works as a commercial truck driver and as a founder and software designer for Go Smart Shopper, a start-up app for menu-planning and that auto-populates grocery shopping lists using geo-tagging.
Cross said his time in the military grounded him, and his time as a Boy Scouts in his youth instilled the importance of giving back to the community.
The protection of freedom of speech and freedom of the press are a priority for Cross. First Amendment freedom, such as the “exchange of ideas and critical thinking” should extend into social media without the fear of censorship.
“I think that Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like are the modern-day equivalent of the town square, and as such, our First Amendment rights are protected in that type of setting,” he said.
Cross said he has a viable solution to the state’s homeless crisis.
He intends to get people off the street through the funding of “private dollars.” Then, work with nonprofit organizations, as well as businesses and trade organizations, to expand apprenticeship programs that cater to homeless.
“It’s officially not the AG’s role to solve this, but it gets back to, you know, what I learned as a kid — help out the community, do what you can.”
Cross said other important issues include the environment and prison reform.
Law enforcement officials involved in the Portland protests over the past several months should be entitled to hazard pay of at least $10,000, he added.
“The AG needs to side with law enforcement to the extent that when they are doing their officials duties. I do back the blue,” he said. “Now, if somebody deviates from that, and makes a mistake, that’s something else.”
When asked how he would reassure Oregonians how he would be able to take on the role of the attorney general without a law degree, he said, “Look at what we have now and the mess that we’re in. Whether you’re a lawyer or not a lawyer, that’s immaterial — where’s your heart at, where’s your mind at, where’s your drive at, and what do you want to accomplish? Those are things that I have a stellar track record.”
According to the Secretary of State’s office, candidates for the attorney general office only have to be a resident of Oregon. No law degree is required.
Cross has a criminal record both in and out of state. In 1997, Cross was convicted of felony first-degree criminal mistreatment in Marion County. He filed a motion in January to convert the conviction to a misdemeanor, which was granted in March, court records show. In 2006, he was convicted of two counts of felony fourth-degree assault out of Lincoln County.
He was also convicted of criminal trespass after he was arrested in 2000 at an El Paso shopping center while campaigning for candidate Pat Buchanan. on the presidential ballot in Texas
“I’m kind of proud of that,” he responded when asked about the El Paso case. “It’s me fighting for our rights.”
“With my military service, I’ve proven that … I love to serve my county, I love the Constitution, I love people,” he said. I’m just your average Oregonian — you know I’m not perfect. I think I will represent people quite well and hold people accountable.”
If re-elected, Ellen Rosenblum said she will continue to lead the state with strength and progressive values.
“Oregon is a unique place and we have to have an attorney general who not only has the background and the experience but understands the law and has the values to make sure that we maintain these accomplishments that we have,” Rosenblum said.
Rosenblum’s law career extends back to 1975 when she worked as an associate and partner with Hammons, Phillips and Jensen in Eugene. Before being elected as the first woman attorney general in 2012, she served as a judge in the Oregon Court of Appeals, the Multnomah County District and Circuit Courts, as well as the assistant U.S. Attorney in Oregon.
She received her doctorate in law from the University of Oregon.
During her time in office, Rosenblum said she’s focused on issues such as reproductive rights, health care, consumers, the environment, victim advocacy and gun reform.
Her creation of a task force to review the state’s public record law led to Senate Bill 481, which establishes a deadline for public officials to respond to requests and requires the AG’s office to catalog the more than 500 public records law exemptions in the state.
In 2017, she led helped “curb police profiling” with House Bill 2355, legislation that requires the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to develop methods for recording data concerning officer-initiated pedestrian and traffic stops.
Rosenblum is also credited with a task force on hate crimes that created Senate Bill 577, a law that allocates more funding to victim services, changes charge verbiage from ‘intimidation’ to ‘bias’ crime and adds gender identity as a protected class. The bill was signed into law in September 2019.
If re-elected, Rosenblum wants to continue focusing on these issues — while practicing “fiscal responsibility” — and address system racial injustices that “pervade our entire country and definitely our state.”
“If there’s legislation, it needs to be viewed through an equity lens. If there are diversity and inclusion and equity (problems) in our own agencies, we need to make that a priority,” she said. “We can’t put these things off any longer. They must be addressed at a holistic level.”
Oregon joins 20-plus multi-state lawsuits challenging administration
Since 2016, Oregon has directly participated in more than 20 multi-state lawsuits against the Trump administration.
In September, Oregon joined Washington and Pennsylvania in a lawsuit to block U.S. Postal Service policy changes proposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, which include limiting worker overtime and late or extra shifts. DeJoy, a Republican donor with no prior postal management experience, reversed himself and said he’d halt some of the changes following a national outcry.
Depending on the outcome of the presidential election, Rosenblum said it will be critical to continue working closely with colleagues around the county to correct the damage that’s been done at a national level is “corrected as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
“But I don’t take anything on unless it affects Oregonians,” she said. “I will make sure that I will continue to conserve our resources and only get involved where it appears that Oregonians are being harmed.”
These lawsuits don’t incur large expenses “because we work together,” she added.
She pointed to the example of a multi-state lawsuit involving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
“We have 11,000 DACAs in our state who are all either students or working, paying taxes, being parents, being teachers — and it turns out many of them were essential workers and are in connection with COVID,” she said. These “residents were made promises and we thought those promises should be kept.”
She’s also taken 196 environmental actions against the administration to protect the environment.
Lars D. H. Hedbor also is running for the office of attorney general representing the Libertarian party, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Hedbor did not immediately respond to interview requests from the Statesman Journal.
According to records, Hedbor works as an author and technical writer. He also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1986 to 1992.
Hedbor earned his diploma from Colchester High School in Colchester, Vermont, and studied Korean Basic Language and Culture Immersion at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.
As of Thursday, Michael Cross for Oregon Attorney General has secured $7,116 in campaign contributions, according to campaign finance documents.
Cross’ donations have primarily been miscellaneous cash contributions from multiple individuals across the state.
The campaign received one out-of-state $200 cash contribution from Sons of Liberty, a non-profit that provides military training to “vulnerable populations” to help them combat terrorists such as ISIS.
The Elect Ellen Rosenblum for Attorney General campaign has received $448,825.31 in in-kind and cash contributions as of Thursday, according to finance records.
Some of the contributors include the Democratic Party of Oregon, Democratic Attorneys General Association, Oregon Beverage PAC, Oregon AFSCME Council 75, Oregon Nurses Political Action Committee, Google Inc and Amazon.com.
Finance records show Friends of Lars Hedbor has not received donations for his 2020 election campaign.
On their opponent
Cross has criticized Rosenblum for “working for Kate Brown.”
“I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Cross said. “I believe it’s the AG’s role to hold the government accountable, not to be the governor’s lawyer.”
The attorney general advises and represents state agencies, and protects the interests of the state.
He also said she was “not encouraging” leaders to move quickly enough on ruling non-unanimous jury verdicts as unconstitutional.
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled non-unanimous jury verdicts unconstitutional, a ruling with a massive impact on Oregon.
Though Rosenblum initially filed a brief saying a ruling finding non-unanimous juries unconstitutional would invalidate hundreds of convictions in the state, she supported the decision.
“This is good news!” Rosenblum said in a statement. “It is an embarrassment to our otherwise progressive state that we are the only state in the country with a law in our Constitution that allows criminal convictions without juror unanimity.”
On Cross, Rosenblum said she does not know much about him. Their only opportunity to talk was over a video conference during the Oregonian’s editorial endorsement interview in September.
“He’s an interesting guy,” she said. “It’s clear who’s better prepared to use the position of the state attorney general to protect Oregonians and address our really important challenges that we have right now.”
“I understand that he really seems to complain a lot about leaders, but not to show leadership qualities himself,” she added.
Home: Portland, Oregon
Family: Husband, Richard Meeker; son and daughter; two grandchildren
Education: Earned J.D. from the University of Oregon; Attended Scripps College before transferring to University of Oregon to graduate with a B.S. in Sociology
Work: Judge, Oregon Court of Appeals (2005-2011); Judge, Multnomah County District and Circuit Courts (1989-2005); Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Oregon (1980-1989); Associate and partner: Hammons, Phillips and Jensen, Eugene (1975-1979)
Campaign contact: [email protected]
Home: Turner, Oregon
Family: Divorced; two daughters, 23 and 26.
Education: Diploma from Fairview High School, Chico, California; Business courses from Butte College, Chico, California; Community College of US Air Force Certificate Helicopter Mechanic; Noncommissioned Officer Academy Leadership Course US Air Force Certificate Leadership.
Campaign contact: [email protected]
Virginia Barreda is the breaking news and public safety reporter for the Statesman Journal. She can be reached at 503-399-6657 or at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @vbarreda2.