Kevin Barton for Washington County District Attorney: Why the Stakes Are So High in this Election

By Howard Rodstein
The year is 1983. After two decades of failed social engineering, Oregon’s criminal justice system is in shambles. The violent crime rate has increased 600 percent since 1960. As the toll soars, and despite a 50 percent increase in state population, Oregon’s leaders callously refuse to expand prison space above the 1960 level. Murderers, sentenced to life in prison, are routinely released after serving six years. Prisoners are “furloughed”, many not to be seen again until their next crime. The director of the Oregon Department of Corrections would later say: “We don’t have a deterrent to the guys on the street. We have lost control of it.” (Statesman-Journal, February 21, 1988)

Exasperated members of the Portland chapter of Parents of Murdered Children came together to form Crime Victims United of Oregon (CVU) with the mission “To promote a more balanced justice system through legislative action and public awareness”.

Over the next 25 years, the voters of Oregon reasserted control over the criminal justice system. In 1986, they enacted crime victims’ rights into statute. In 1994 they enacted Measure 11 which mandated longer sentences and truth-in-sentencing for violent criminals and serious sex offenders. In 1999 they enshrined crime victims’ rights in the Oregon Constitution. In 2000 they overwhelmingly rejected an attempt by friends of criminals to repeal Measure 11 and slash sentences for violent crimes and serious sex offenses, including aggravated assault, robbery, kidnapping, child molestation, forcible rape, manslaughter, attempted murder, and murder. In 2008 they voted yes for Measures 51 and 52 which made crime victims’ rights enforceable through the courts. That same year they passed Measure 57 which toughened sentencing for repeat property criminals and repeat drug dealers.

Fast-forward to today. Billionaire George Soros’ Washington-based “Safety and Justice PAC”, in league with its Oregon-based ally, the ironically-named “Partnership for Safety and Justice” (PSJ) – a criminal advocacy group formerly known as “Western Prison Project” – are working to systematically undo all of the gains that protect law-abiding Oregonians. PSJ has advocated slashing sentences for violent criminals including murderers, rapists and child molesters by decimating Measure 11, and for repeat-repeat-repeat property criminals by undermining Measure 57. Like their ideological ancestor, the deceptively-named “Crime Victims for Justice”, this regressive organization opposed all crime victims’ rights ballot measures.

The struggle to preserve the true and effective reforms enacted by the voters of Oregon is playing out right now in Washington County. Kevin Barton, the Chief Deputy District Attorney, is running to replace retiring DA Bob Hermann. Over the past decade as a Washington County Deputy DA, Kevin has worked with hundreds of crime victims while prosecuting murder, child-abuse, sex trafficing, and other serious crimes. He supervises the child-abuse prosecution team and assists in managing the DA’s office. Kevin is endorsed by Bob Hermann, Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, all of the county commissioners, the Oregon Coalition of Police Chiefs & Sheriffs, and the mayors and police chiefs of nearly all Washington County cities.

Barton is facing an onslaught of deceptive campaign ads paid for by Soros’ group in support of a candidate who they plucked from legal obscurity to advance their agenda of slashing sentences. Contrary to the candidate’s implications, Washington County is a leader in alternatives to prison, including a nationally-recognized drug court. Seventy percent of convicted felons and 100 percent of convicted misdemeanants receive non-prison sentences.

This election season Washington County voters will make an incredibly important decision. Do you want an experienced prosecutor committed to preserving the safety of law-abiding citizens, or do you want to elect a relatively inexperienced candidate committed to undoing decades of criminal justice reform?

The choice for the safety of Washington County is clear. Please join Crime Victims United in supporting Kevin Barton for Washington County District Attorney.

Howard Rodstein is a director of Crime Victims United of Oregon