Oregon Attorney General Rosenblum won’t run for fourth term

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum plans to step down at the end of her term, clearing the way for a new top law enforcement official.

Rosenblum, a Democrat, has served as attorney general since June 2012, when she was appointed to finish the term of former Attorney General John Kroger. She won election in 2012, 2016 and 2020. 

Unlike the governor, secretary of state and treasurer, the attorney general doesn’t have term limits. But Rosenblum, 72, said in a statement Tuesday that she decided to impose her own. 

“Every state agency, no matter how well run, can benefit from new leadership, new energy, and new initiatives,” she said. “By making this announcement more than a full year before the next general election — and eight months before the primary — I expect there will be good candidates to succeed me as the People’s Attorney for Oregon.”

Rosenblum served as an assistant U.S. attorney and a judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court and Oregon Court of Appeals before running for attorney general. She gained national prominence during the Trump years, leading and joining coalitions of Democratic attorneys general that opposed the former president’s refugee ban, environmental policies and efforts to undermine abortion rights.   

She’ll be president of the National Association of Attorneys General during her last year in office. Rosenblum’s term ends in January 2025. 

“In the course of our work, I like to think I — and the nearly 1,400 wonderful employees of the state Department of Justice — have made life better for all Oregonians,” Rosenblum said. “During my time in office, we’ve accomplished a lot together. On top of that, the day-to-day work of running the state’s largest law firm has been incredibly rewarding.”

Sean Rankin, president of the Democratic Attorney Generals Association, said Rosenblum has been a mentor and confidante for seven years and is “irreplaceable.” 

“Through four years of being the last line of defense against the Trump administration and through fights to protect the rights of all Americans, Ellen Rosenblum has stood resolutely with her colleagues and our staff in historic political, policy, and legal fights,” he said. “All the while, AG Rosenblum raised up Oregon, its people and the qualities that make it such a special place.”

Campaigning begins

One Republican, Newberg attorney Will Lathrop, has begun fundraising for attorney general. No Democrats have yet entered the race, and a few Democratic attorneys in the Legislature have already bowed out.

House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, is widely rumored to run. Rayfield didn’t return a call from the Capital Chronicle on Tuesday. 

Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Portland, told the Capital Chronicle she considered running for attorney general but decided she had more work to do in the Senate. She wants to continue working on energy policy and addressing the state’s floundering behavioral health system. 

“Quite frankly, I literally am in my first term,” Lieber said. “I just figured out how this whole thing works. And I think the breadth of issues that I’m able to touch in the Senate was just something that I wasn’t quite ready to move on from.”

Other attorneys in the Legislature said they wouldn’t run or have already filed for reelection to their House seats, including Democratic Reps. Jason Kropf and Emerson Levy of Bend and Tom Andersen of Salem. 

Oregon is one of 22 states that doesn’t require its attorney general to be licensed to practice law, though candidates are typically lawyers. The attorney general is the state’s top prosecutor and represents the state government in civil cases. 

The Department of Justice also advocates for vulnerable Oregonians, including running the state’s child support program, overseeing crime victim compensation and managing the bias response hotline. 

Rosenblum’s retirement means Oregonians will elect new leaders to the three statewide races up for election next year. Term-limited state Treasurer Tobias Read and Eugene Sen. James Manning, both Democrats, are running for secretary of state, and Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland, is running for treasurer. 

Correction: An early version of this article referred to Will Lathrop as a Wallowa County attorney. Lathrop grew up in Wallowa County but now lives in Newberg. 

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Julia Shumway is deputy editor of Oregon Capital Chronicle and has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.