Kitzhaber names Rosenblum as Ore. attorney general

Kitzhaber names Rosenblum as Ore. attorney general
Attorney General candidate Ellen Rosenblum waves to commuters Monday, May 14, 2012, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Ellen Rosenblum, the Democratic candidate for Oregon attorney general, will be taking the job early.

Gov. John Kitzhaber said Wednesday he'll appoint the former judge to succeed John Kroger, who is resigning to become president of Reed College in Portland. Rosenblum will be sworn in as Oregon's first female attorney general on June 29.

Kroger, a Democrat, decided last year not to run for re-election as a result of a health condition he hasn't disclosed publicly.

Rosenblum won the Democratic nomination for attorney general last month. This fall, she'll face Republican James Buchal, a Portland attorney who launched a write-in campaign for the party's nomination after nobody stepped up to be on the primary ballot. An unofficial count released Wednesday showed Buchal with nearly 13,000 GOP write-in votes.

Taking office early will help with a smooth transition, Rosenblum said in an interview.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to try to hit the ground running, and I think it will serve the people well, especially if I'm elected in November," she said.

Rosenblum was a federal prosecutor in Eugene and Portland for nine years before she was appointed a Multnomah County trial-court judge in 1989. She became an Oregon Court of Appeals judge in 2005 and retired from the bench last year.

"This is a historic moment," Kitzhaber said. "Throughout her career, Ellen has been an advocate for the people of Oregon."

The attorney general runs the Oregon Department of Justice, which is responsible for collecting child support, providing legal advice to state agencies, enforcing consumer-protection laws and helping district attorneys with criminal prosecutions.

The Democratic primary was dominated by a discussion of medical marijuana, and drug-policy groups contributed about a fourth of her campaign funds. Rosenblum said she'd make marijuana enforcement a low-priority.

But drug laws are a tiny portion of the attorney general's workload, and Rosenblum said other issues were more important. She said she wants to focus on giving high-quality legal advice to the state and protecting vulnerable citizens.

"Ellen will be a fantastic Attorney General and we will all work to make sure she has a smooth transition," Kroger said.

Buchal has litigated business disputes and represented businesses fighting the government. He calls himself a libertarian and said his goal as attorney general would not be to win every case.

"When you get into this mindset where the government always has to win, we end up with more and more complexity and everything grinds to a halt," Buchal said. "If you keep electing people who are sort of lifetime government people, I'm not sure they can even see the problem."

Rosenblum said she would immediately begin meeting with Justice Department staff and learning about the agency's operations. She plans to take a slow approach and doesn't anticipate making major changes before the November election, she said.

"I think what's most important is that I do a really good job as interim attorney general," Rosenblum said. "People are going to be watching me carefully, and closely, and they should be."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.