Should the Attorney General be an Attorney?

Reading the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet entries for the Republican Primary, I noticed a cryptic description for education from an Oregon Attorney General candidate. He entered “U.S. Air Force Technical Training, Leadership School, Realtors School, Business, Law Education.” That vagueness appeared to suggest he didn’t go to law school.

I sent him an email, seeking to confirm. He replied:

Thanks for reaching out. I’ve worked for myself most my life. I have had training and experience in law, but I am not a licensed attorney. In this case, that’s an advantage. I am the only candidate for the position that seems to understand who I work for; my constituents. The other candidates seem to believe (in spite of their law degree) that the state is the Executive Branch of Government. This belief fuels the demand for lawyers and billable hours. I’m sure that’s no accident.

What we need now in Oregon is a problem solver that understands real world market laws and conditions. For instance my solution to the Homeless Crisis is fundamentally based on just that, (see my website “platform” page there.)

I also strongly support the 2nd Amendment, the 1st Amendment and the rest of them. Our state and federal government has gotten, way, way off track of what it should be doing. This is also why I am running. I did not see anyone else qualified that was seeking the office.

I hope I can count on your support. If so, please share my posts on social media. This is essential to winning, since I do not accept large contributions.

That certainly confirmed that he’s not a lawyer, but I still got vague answers as to the institution where he had studied law. We ended up having a phone conversation over lunch yesterday where Cross’s lack of familiarity with the scope and jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of Justice showed, that basic knowledge that a law school graduate would know. I also, finally, after several asks, got an answer to where he had studied law. Cross explained that he has taken an undergraduate business contracts course at Butte College, in California.

Also running in this Republican primary is Will Lathrop. He’s a lawyer. He’s a graduate of Willamette University Law School and an experienced prosecutor from Yamhill and Marion Counties.

To me, this is a no-brainer. I see no convincing evidence that Cross is more committed to better public policy than Lathrop. Cross talks a lot about policy ideas, but they seem to highlight his lack of knowledge about what an Attorney General does. Rather than impress me that he will solve Oregon’s homelessness in that role, I get the sense that Cross would waste a lot of time simply learning what the jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of Justice actually is.

I’ll be voting for Lathrop. Certainly, Cross’s rejection of expertise is fashionable among many Republicans today in the Trump era, but that populist thinking doesn’t get traction with me. The Oregon Department of Justice does not run New Deal type jobs programs for homeless people. It does not nullify laws from municipal governments. Oregon’s DOJ prosecutes violations of Oregon law and represents state government in civil litigation. I would rather have a Republican doing that than a Democrat, and I would rather that Republican have the technical competence to do it well in the very unlikely scenario a Republican wins in the general election.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there