Oregon's top prosecutor said Tuesday he'll call it quits at the end of his term. Democratic Attorney General Hardy Myers has held the post for ten years. Salem correspondent Chris Lehman has more on the announcement and who might replace Myers.
The Attorney General is one of Oregon's most powerful public officials. The state's top legal enforcer can issue legal opinions that stop bureaucrats in their tracks. And Hardy Myers says that's not something to take lightly.
Hardy Myers: “The ability to tell a state agency that something it wants to do is illegal, is the ability to halt the agency from doing that. Now that's a very considerable authority, and it has to be exercised very carefully.”
Myers has been exercising that authority since 1997 when he first took office. The 67-year-old says it's time for new leadership at the State Department of Justice, where he oversees 1300 employees and a $380 million budget.
Keeping state agencies on the legal straight and narrow isn't the only thing the Attorney General does. The office regulates everything from child support payments to charitable gaming.
University of Oregon law professor Garret Epps says it's a position of tremendous power.
Garret Epps: “An attorney general who chooses to can take a fairly aggressive role in enforcing the state's laws, particularly in areas like consumer protection, financial fraud, environmental enforcement and so forth.”
So who's going to replace Myers? The Democrat didn't offer up any names when asked about potential successors.
Epps says voters who make the choice on the next attorney general should look for someone with intelligence and integrity.
Garret Epps: “One of the really positive things about the Oregon Attorney General's office is that in recent years it has not been a site of any sort of partisan advocacy. Citizens and lawmakers and people in government have had a lot of confidence that they were getting straight advice.”
No one's officially announced their candidacy to success Myers. A potential front-runner is Democratic State Representative Greg Macpherson, who's briefing reporters later this week about his future political plans.
Another potential candidate is Republican Kevin Mannix, a former state representative who also ran for governor. He's out of the country and was unavailable for comment. As for Myers, he says he doesn't plan to sit back and take it easy until his term is up in January 2009.
Hardy Myers: “With this announcement I recognize that I become, in conventional political terms, a lame duck. But I don't intend to have that description extend to the rest of my service as attorney general.”
Myers says he plans to stay active in some form of public service when he retires, but he isn't seeking higher office. Another former Oregon Attorney General, Ted Kulongoski, is now the state's governor.