District Attorney Skips Dinner Over Remarks: Several Oregon prosecutors—including Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill—were so offended by a conference presentation given this month by a Missouri prosecutor that they walked out. The controversial presentation was delivered Aug. 16 by Robert McCulloch, the prosecutor who in 2014 failed to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Mo. McCulloch criticized the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Lives Matter and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the Oregon District Attorneys Association summer conference in Bend on Aug. 16. (McCulloch had unexpectedly lost re-election the previous week.) Underhill says he felt uncomfortable because of "unprofessional and offensive" comments McCulloch made during his first presentation in the middle of the day—so neither he nor anyone from his office attended McCulloch's keynote address.
Dennis Richardson Faces Health Questions: Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who announced in June he's fighting brain cancer, phoned in to an Aug. 14 meeting of the State Land Board. Richardson, 69, is the only Oregon Republican who holds statewide office and, as the state's top elections official, faces a busy fall. Known for his thorough questions, Richardson barely spoke during the hourlong board meeting and struggled to make himself understood, raising questions about his health. Should Richardson's illness force his resignation, Gov. Kate Brown would appoint a successor until the next general election. Richardson's chief of staff, Debra Royal, says such concerns are misplaced. "He is on the job and working," Royal wrote in an email. "The therapy appears to be working well. However, as you would expect, it does cause moments of fatigue." (After questions from WW, Richardson released a video Aug. 28, thanking well-wishers for support and assuring them he's hard at work.)
Gov. Brown's Campaign Buys From Anti-Abortion Insurer: Gov. Kate Brown's campaign has repeatedly hammered her general election opponent, state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), for his inconsistent position on abortion, noting that although Buehler says he's pro-choice, he voted against House Bill 3391—groundbreaking 2017 legislation that required health insurers to provide all Oregon women access to abortions. One problem: Providence Health Plan, a Catholic-affiliated insurer, refused to provide abortion coverage and won an exemption from the law. Yet records show, despite Brown's unwavering pro-choice stance, her campaign has continued to buy health insurance from Providence—the only insurer exempt from the law. Since the bill passed in July 2017, Brown's campaign has spent $25,000 with the insurer, despite its anti-abortion stance. Brown campaign spokesman Christian Gaston says there's no inconsistency. "It's a health plan the campaign staff chose," he says. "The governor helped to change the law going forward with the Reproductive Health Equity Act. Knute Buehler voted against that."
Advocates Plan Ballot Measure for Cannabis Cafes: Cannabis advocacy group the New Revenue Coalition wants Oregon lawmakers to expand the number of places where consumers can light up. Currently, Oregon law effectively restricts cannabis consumption to private residences—but many landlords don't allow tenants to smoke in rented properties. Coalition spokesman Sam Chapman says his group will push lawmakers in 2019 to legalize, license and regulate cafes and lounges specifically dedicated to cannabis consumption. The group also plans to begin gathering signatures for a 2020 ballot measure as a backup plan.