John Hummel, the controversial and sometimes polarizing Deschutes County district attorney, announced he won’t seek reelection in 2022.
Hummel, who was first elected in 2014, broke the news to his staff Monday morning.
“I’m a firm believer in the value of fresh ideas in government,” he wrote in an email to staff. “I think that my ideas and leadership have helped improve the performance of our office (you and the public will be the ultimate judge of this), and at the same time I know that my way is not necessarily the only way. There is value in considering new ideas, philosophies, and leadership styles.”
Hummel said he will serve out the remaining 16 months of his term.
“Serving as your District Attorney has been a privilege and an honor,” he wrote in a public statement. “Every morning when I walk the three flights up to my office I think about the important work that my colleagues in your DA’s office and I have to do that day for the people of Deschutes County.”
Though he’s previously discussed a desire to hold higher office, Hummel insists he is not sure what’s next for him.
There are several notable political vacancies in Oregon, including federal prosecutor for Oregon, a position Hummel has declared interest in publicly.
With Gov. Kate Brown is barred from seeking another consecutive term, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has been widely mentioned as a possible candidate for governor next year. Since Rosenblum was last elected in 2020, the governor would have to appoint a replacement until the 2024 general election.
Last week, Brown announced two openings on the Oregon Court of Appeals, and earlier this month, started taking applications for an opening on the Oregon Supreme Court to replace Justice Lynn Nakamoto, who is retiring at the end of the year.
Hummel said suggestions he’s considering a run for higher office are “flattering.”
“I have to take a little risk, and step back when I don’t know what’s next,” he said.
He’s been a polarizing figure, including among colleagues in law enforcement.
After the passage in November of Measure 110, decriminalizing some hard drugs in Oregon, Hummel announced he would cease prosecuting cases covered under the statute, even though the law had yet to go into effect. Police agencies in the region, however, continued making arrests for hard drugs.
Hummel’s relationship with Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz, who arrived in the summer of 2020, has lately been a topic of discussion.
Hummel has declined to charge cases forwarded by Bend Police against the activist group Central Oregon Peacekeepers and called Krantz obsessed with the group, which is highly critical of Bend Police.
“That simply isn’t true and is an example of one of those things we disagree on,” Krantz said Monday.
Regardless, Krantz said the rift between he and Hummel has been overblown by the media and wished Hummel well in his next move.
“Whether it’s a great case or not, we understand not every case is going to get prosecuted,” Krantz said. “That’s just the reality of 21st Century public service.”
Former Bend Police Chief Jim Porter said he appreciated Hummel’s support of Senate Bill 576, aka Kaylee’s Law, which “de-polices” campus police forces.
“While I didn’t agree with all of his decisions, he was a good partner in dealing with Central Oregon Community College, helping pass laws that make all colleges safer,” Porter said.
Hummel, 52, grew up in White Plains, New York. He said after law school, he chose Oregon after researching all 50 states. He settled on Deschutes County after applying to every public defender’s office in the state.
Hummel worked in Bend as a defense attorney for 12 years — six in public defense and six in private practice. While in private practice Hummel worked as a lobbyist for the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. It was also during his time in criminal defense that he served a term and a half on the Bend City Council.
He took over for outgoing Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty, who served one term.
Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, worked as a prosecutor under both district attorneys.
“I really enjoyed working at the DA’s office and with John,” Kropf said. “I appreciated the stability he brought to the office and his years of service to Deschutes County. I look forward to seeing what he does next.”