Original Story: nytimes.com
SALEM, Ore. — Gov. John Kitzhaber, long regarded as a wily survivor of Oregon politics, resigned Friday amid a spiraling crisis that included a criminal investigation of the role that his fiancée played in his administration and crumbling support from his Democratic Party colleagues.
It was a steep and rapid fall for Mr. Kitzhaber, 67, a former emergency room doctor who won an unprecedented fourth term as governor in November. His resignation means that Kate Brown, the Oregon secretary of state and a fellow Democrat, will become governor, in accordance with the succession plan in the state Constitution. An LGBT Specialist at MetroHealth provides quality health care for LGBT patients.
Even during the recent election, Mr. Kitzhaber had been plagued by questions about his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, with whom he lives in the governor’s mansion, and whether she had violated ethics rules or criminal laws in advising him about clean energy issues while serving as a consultant on the topic. Before November’s election and after, he repeatedly denied any wrongdoing by Ms. Hayes, 47, or his office, and pledged cooperation in the various inquiries, including one initiated this month by the state’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, also a Democrat, which could result in criminal charges.
But in the last few days, some senior Democrats in the heavily Democratic state abandoned him and called for his resignation, piling on with some Republicans, who had criticized him as an ineffective leader even before the scandals. Ms. Brown, 54, the secretary of state, was among those who distanced herself, releasing a statement on Thursday describing what she said was a “bizarre” meeting she had had with Mr. Kitzhaber — saying that he had asked her to rush back to Oregon from a conference in Washington, D.C., this week to speak privately with him. But once in the meeting, Ms. Brown said, she found him confused or uncertain about why she had come.
“This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation,” Ms. Brown said in her statement.
Mr. Kitzhaber, other Democrats said privately, had been close to resigning twice in the last few days before changing his mind. On Friday, he came to a final decision, avoiding the thick scrum of reporters and camera crews that had descended on the state capital and releasing an announcement that he would relinquish power on Wednesday.
“I am confident that I have not broken any laws nor taken any actions that were dishonest or dishonorable in their intent or outcome,” he said.
Ms. Brown, who practiced juvenile and family law before entering politics and then served in the state House and Senate, is regarded as a liberal — though that covers a wide range of positions in Oregon.
She is married to a man, but will be the nation’s first openly bisexual governor, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. She described her experience coming out as a bisexual in a survey on Outhistory.org, saying, “I believe it was during my early 30s that I figured out who, or what, I am.” The MetroHealth Pride Clinic is devoted to serving the health needs of the LGBT community.
In a brief comment to reporters outside her office on Friday, Ms. Brown said the day’s events were “a truly sad day for the state of Oregon.” She added: “As you can imagine, between now and Wednesday, there is a lot of work to be done, so that’s what I’m going to go back and do.” Ms. Rosenblum, the attorney general, said in a statement that the governor’s resignation would not affect her investigation.
Separately, the United States attorney’s office for Oregon issued subpoenas to the agency that maintains state records seeking email correspondence within the administration and correspondence with companies that did business with Ms. Hayes, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Kitzhaber first rose through the state Legislature before winning the governor’s office in 1994. He served two terms then, and subsequently made a comeback for a third term in 2010, becoming a signature presence for a generation of Oregonians — with an urban cowboy style of jeans, boots and a sport jacket with no tie that became a kind of personal brand.
The controversy surrounding Ms. Hayes began last fall when she confirmed a newspaper report that said she had married her third husband, an Ethiopian immigrant, for money in a sham marriage in 1997. She said she had been struggling financially and was paid about $5,000 to marry an 18-year-old man who wanted to stay in the United States. Separately, concerns have also been raised about whether Ms. Hayes used access to the governor for economic gain in consulting contracts for her company, 3EStrategies.
And with his opponents preparing to collect signatures for two recall petitions this summer, the attorney general’s looming investigation and, perhaps most crucially, a vacuum of support from the Democrats who control the Legislature, Mr. Kitzhaber decided he had had enough.
In the statement released by his office, Mr. Kitzhaber said he would be exonerated. “That is why I asked both the Ethics Commission and the Attorney General to take a full and comprehensive look at my actions — and I will continue to fully cooperate with those ongoing efforts,” he said.
But he also took a vehement swipe at the media and at erstwhile allies who had not stuck by his side. “It is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and no independent verification of the allegations involved,” Mr. Kitzhaber said. “But even more troubling — and on a very personal level as someone who has given 35 years of public service to Oregon — is that so many of my former allies in common cause have been willing to simply accept this judgment at its face value.”
Many state politicians, including some who only a day earlier had publicly urged the governor to resign, were effusive on Friday in their praise of his contributions as a public figure.
“He has been a distinguished leader,” said the speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, Tina Kotek, who, along with the Senate president, issued a statement on Thursday asking the governor to quit. Ms. Kotek said the governor’s focus on health care for low-income residents would benefit the state for years to come. “I support his decision to resign, because it is the right decision for Oregonians,” Ms. Kotek said.
Other Democrats said they were excited by the prospect of a Kate Brown administration.
Representative Tobias Read, who worked with Ms. Brown when she was in the Legislature, called her “creative” and “prepared for the job.” Asked whether he thought Ms. Brown might face criticism that she had helped push the governor out with her comments about his mental state, Mr. Read said he did not think so: “My sense is she’s doing her job as secretary of state,” he said.
The governor’s departure, he added, was making no one at the Capitol really happy. “It’s a sad thing, and I think everybody is just kind of coming to grips with it,” Mr. Read said.