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Roger Stone endorses Atkinson for Congress

Convicted felon and political advisor Roger Stone has endorsed Jason Atkinson for Congress because of the Central Point Republican’s strong support of President Donald Trump and marijuana legalization.

“When I find conservative candidates who are pro-cannabis, I will go out of my way to support them,” said Stone, reached by phone in Florida. “I’m a longtime critic of the war on drugs.”

Stone, who was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison in February, was scheduled to begin his sentence at the end of April but has been allowed to remain free because of the coronavirus, and he is appealing convictions for a variety of offenses, including tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia.Stone says he is appealing for juror misconduct and other constitutional issues.

Atkinson, whose campaign sought the written endorsement from Stone, is one of 11 Republicans running for the Second Congressional District seat nomination.

Stone, who continues to maintain his innocence, remains a staunch supporter of Trump. An ally of many past Republican administrations, including Nixon and Reagan, Stone said he didn’t like the war on drugs back then and grew up in New York with its “draconian” drug laws.

“It was an ignominious, expensive, racist failure,” he said. “We’ve spent billions to incarcerate people for nonviolent crimes.”

He supports changing federal law so cannabis is no longer a Schedule 1 drug, and he also supports changing regulations to allow the banking industry to accept cannabis money.

Stone, who has issues with a detached retina in his right eye from boxing, said he can’t consume cannabis products at this time because he is subject to random drug testing. He said if he smoked, he would be violating federal law, even though he has a medical marijuana card in Florida.

Despite being a felon, Stone said a majority of Republicans won’t see a problem with his conviction.

“For most Republican voters there is a recognition that it was motivated by a political witch hunt,” he said.

For any Republicans who aren’t comfortable with a felon endorsing a candidate, Stone said, “Don’t vote for the candidate I endorse.”

Stone said he’d like to get a pardon from the president, saying he considers himself on good terms with Trump, while acknowledging he hasn’t directly talked to him in two years.

Trump has previously said he thinks Stone was treated unfairly and preferred he was exonerated through the legal process, but he has left open the possibility of a pardon.

In his endorsement letter for Atkinson, Stone singled out Second District candidate Knute Buehler for criticism, calling him a “liberal Republican” and a “Never Trumper.”

“As a candidate for governor, Knute Buehler consistently attacked President Trump and refused to support the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh,” Stone wrote. “Knute Buehler is the kind of career politician who sticks a wet finger in the wind to determine what he needs to say to be popular.”

Buehler said he didn’t initially support Trump in 2016, backing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at the time, but he noted that Atkinson wasn’t initially a Trump supporter. He said Atkinson early on made statements critical of Trump.

Since then, Buehler has become a Trump supporter, citing the president’s trade deals and the country’s low unemployment rate. Before the pandemic, the stock market was performing at record levels, he said.

“His policies are good for America and good for Oregon,” Buehler said.

Buehler said he would support the federal rescheduling of marijuana. He’d also like to see changes in banking regulations to allow cannabis deposits.

“It’s better to have that cash in the bank,” he said.

Buehler said he did support going slower on cannabis legalization in Oregon, hoping to have a better regulatory framework in place before it could be grown and sold legally.

Buehler said he wasn’t sure how Republicans in the Second Congressional District would react to an endorsement from a felon.

“I’m trying to get endorsements of leading citizens in Oregon and not in Florida,” he said.

Jim Dornan, Atkinson’s campaign manager, said the idea behind seeking the endorsement of Stone came from Tana Goertz of the Women for Trump Coalition at the Lincoln Day Dinner, a Republican gathering earlier this year.

“We know that Roger talks with the president and his inner circle,” he said.

Dornan, who worked on the Trump campaign, said Republicans in the congressional district would appreciate an endorsement from a high-ranking Trump supporter such as Stone, who helped get the president elected in 2016.

“I’ve been told that Trump support in this district is between 90% and 95% among Republicans,” he said. “Stone has a great deal of support among Republican voters.”

He said many Republicans believe the charges against Stone were just another attempt to go after Trump.

“The trial was a farce,” he said. “Roger was railroaded.”

Dornan said Atkinson supports marijuana legalization and was an early supporter of the hemp industry.

He said the biggest problem Atkinson has had with marijuana legalization is that growers haven’t been following the same rules as other agricultural crops, citing in particular issues with water rights.

Atkinson had a long recovery from an accidental gunshot wound in 2008, but he didn’t rely on marijuana during his treatment, Dornan said.

“It’s funny to me that someone would think that Jason would ever get high,” he said. “He didn’t then and he doesn’t now.”

Cliff Bentz, another candidate in the Republican primary, said he wasn’t sure how Republicans in the congressional district would view the Stone endorsement.

“I honestly don’t know what the normal perception of Republicans would be for Roger Stone,” he said.

Bentz said he’s received endorsements from county commissioners, sheriffs, cattlemen and former Congressman Bob Smith.

“I wouldn’t trade any of them for the endorsement of Roger Stone,” he said.

Bentz said he’s voted against most marijuana-related legislation, and he said most of the counties in the Second Congressional District voted against cannabis legalization.

But he said he would support the will of the voters in his district when it comes to legalization.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Jason Atkinson announces his run for Congress.