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article imageOpenly bisexual woman to become Oregon's next governor

By Nathan Salant     Feb 14, 2015 in Politics
Portland - The governor of the U.S. state of Oregon resigned under pressure Friday, faced with new revelations in a widening political influence scandal involving his fiancee.
Democrat John Kitzhaber, who was elected to an unprecedented third term in November, will step down as governor on Wednesday, according to the Reuters news service.
Kitzhaber will be replaced by Secretary of State Kate Brown, who will become the nation’s first openly bisexual governor, at least until a special election is held next year.
Kitzhaber has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing on his part or that of his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, but said he was leaving office because the scandal – and a resulting criminal investigation -- had become too much of a distraction.
“I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life," Kitzhaber said in announcing his resignation.
Hayes is accused of accepting money from outside interests seeking influence in the governor’s office in Portland, Oregon’s largest city.
The most recent revelation in the ongoing criminal probe involved charges that she was paid $118,000 in 2011 and 2012 to advocate for clean energy projects in the Pacific Northwest by the nonprofit Clean Economy Development Center in Washington, D.C.
Kitzhaber said he did not reveal Hayes’ consulting fees in his annual disclosure filings because the couple did not see them as a potential conflict of interest, even though Hayes was advising the governor on energy policy, Reuters said.
But Kitzhaber promised that he would end Hayes’ policy role in his office.
That promise did not stop calls for Kitzhaber’s resignation from prominent Republicans and Democrats in Oregon, including from the state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, which had previously endorsed his re-election to a third term, Reuters said.
Two of Oregon’s most prominent Democratic state legislators, House of Representatives Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney, urged Kitzhaber to resign after a meeting on Thursday, Reuters said.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, also a Democrat, said Kitzhaber’s resignation would enable the state government to return to work on behalf of all Oregonians without being constantly distracted by "investigations and charges and counter-charges."
Kitzhaber said he would continue to cooperate with the investigation.
Brown, set to become the new governor, called Kithaber’s resignation “a sad day for Oregon,” Reuters said.
But Kitzhaber, a former doctor who later served as a legislator before becoming governor, had argued that calls for his resignation were premature.
"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," he said.
Brown, who has served more than 20 years in the state legislature and has publicly discussed her bisexuality, was the first woman in state history to be Senate majority leader, Reuters said.
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