Voters seeking 'law and order' cheer ousting of progressive Oregon district attorney

Portland 'has been a war zone of drug dealing and petty crime' since progressive DA took office, gallery owner says

People living and working in Portland, Oregon, told Fox News Digital they hope the ousting of their progressive district attorney will end what they view as a permissive attitude toward crime.

"They wanted law and order," former Portland news videographer Andy Chandler said of voters' decision. "They didn't want this kind of hollow, empty gesture concept of law and order that I think a lot of us have lived with for four years."

Nathan Vasquez, a longtime prosecutor, beat his boss, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, in Tuesday's nonpartisan primary election after running a tough-on-crime-campaign. Vasquez received endorsements from several police groups, crime victims and business owners.


Nathan Vasquez, Mike Schmidt

Nathan Vasquez, left, ousted his boss, Mike Schmidt, in Tuesday's election for Multnomah County District Attorney. Portland residents told Fox News they hope he'll deliver on promises to crack down on crime in their city. (Courtesy Tara Faul; Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

"[Vasquez] can begin serving victims rather than criminals," street photographer and homeschooling mom Tara Faul told Fox News Digital. "Schmidt's MO seemed to be just letting these people back out and letting them re-offend, and it became pretty hopeless."

Schmidt, whose campaign received contributions from groups linked to liberal billionaire George Soros, took office during the height of Portland’s 2020 protests. He soon announced a policy of declining to prosecute the most common riot-related charges.

But complaints of a revolving door at the jail extend beyond protesters. Officers with the Portland Police Bureau told Fox News earlier this year they've arrested alleged drug dealers, thieves and repeat offenders, only to have them appear back on the streets within hours. 

"That's unfortunately the reality where we work and that's not up to us," officer David Baer said in January.

The DA's office filed charges in just 47% of all cases it received in 2020. That rate has been steadily increasing since then, hitting 60% in 2022. But during the same time frame, police began sending fewer cases to Schmidt, according to data provided to Fox News last spring by the district attorney’s office.

Faul and others in Portland say such policies exacerbated crime and created a feeling of lawlessness in the City of Roses.

Scenes of woman taking photos in Portland, Oregon

Tara Faul documents Portland's drug, crime and homeless crises. She said the city has been plagued by a feeling of hopelessness. "Nobody wants to even report crime, because what's the point? And the police don't want to arrest people because what's the point?" (Han


"It has been a war zone of drug dealing and petty crime for the past at least four years," said Charles Froelick, who has owned an art gallery near downtown Portland since 1995.

Froelick remembers when the city was a destination for people around the globe. But between Oregon's strict pandemic response in 2020 and the subsequent riots, he said "walk-in traffic just plummeted."

"Clients are saying they don't want to come downtown anymore," he said. "People with children saying they don't want their children to see the activity on the streets, on the sidewalks."

Just this week, Faul said a man stole her child's guitar off the front porch of her home. The alleged crime happened in broad daylight, while her family was home, and was captured on their Ring camera. She hasn't filed a police report, and doesn't know if it's worth the effort.

"It just seems like an incredible waste of time, and I think a lot of people who have things stolen from them feel the same way," she said. "The thieves know they can get away with it."

‘Serving victims rather than criminals’: Portlanders react to DA’s oustingVideo


Schmidt supported a vast array of criminal justice reforms during his tenure. He testified in favor of removing mandatory minimum sentences for felony crimes other than murder, introduced a court focused on rehabilitation and behavioral health support for individuals charged with some felonies, and championed the decriminalization of drugs in Oregon.

He reversed course on the latter this year, endorsing lawmakers' proposal to recriminalize hard drugs following a sharp backlash from Oregonians.

Vasquez said in a statement that he is "committed to ending open-air drug dealing and drug use while helping connect individuals to treatment, to rebuilding the broken relationships between the DA’s office and the community, and to ensuring that victims are the number one priority of my office."

Violent crimes like homicides and shootings have waned since hitting record highs in 2022, according to PPB data, but Portlanders Fox News Digital spoke with see much room for improvement.

"I still think it's going to take years, even with [Vasquez] winning this race, to rebuild, not only the trust, but just the actual safety downtown," said Chandler, who talks to numerous residents and public figures on his podcast NW Fresh.

Portland police officer holding green container with suspected fentanyl

Officer David Baer holds out a container of suspected fentanyl that he found inside a tent. (Hannah Ray Lambert/Fox News Digital)


The replacement of a progressive stalwart with a challenger who was a Republican until registering as an Independent in 2017 marks a radical change for the reliably-liberal Portland area. Froelick admitted he probably voted for Schmidt in 2020, but no longer votes "straight ticket Democrat."

"I couldn't trust Democrat policies for the economy, and for law and order," he told Fox News Digital. "I need a change."

Froelick said he still supports helping people with behavioral health problems, but that there needs to be accountability.

"They should not be just allowed to demolish a city over and over and then be let go," he said. "Nathan Vasquez coming into office, I hope, will give a message that criminals wanting to move here and have an easier time dealing drugs or committing crime from other parts of the country, that they won't be treated so easily."

Portland, Oregon

Thursday's election returns showed longtime prosecutor Nathan Vasquez with a 7% lead over incumbent Mike Schmidt. Portland voters told Fox News they believe he'll be less tolerant of criminals in the City of Roses. (David Papazian/Getty Images)

Returns on Thursday showed Vasquez with more than 53% of the vote to Schmidt's 46%. Schmidt conceded the race the previous afternoon, writing in a statement to local media, "While we do not always see eye to eye, I am committed to a smooth transition."

Vasquez is not officially scheduled to take office until January unless Schmidt follows his own predecessor's lead and steps down early. That seems unlikely, with Schmidt's campaign manager telling local news the DA plans to serve the rest of his term.

Schmidt's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Click here to hear more from Portlanders about the election results.

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