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Ore. Secretary Of State Calls Governor's Situation 'Bizarre And Unprecedented'

Don Ryan
AP Photo
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2015 file photo, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, middle, is joined by his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, as he is sworn in for an unprecedented fourth term.


Oregon's House speaker and Senate president have both asked Gov. John Kitzhaber to resign. The request comes as the governor is under intense pressure as part of an ongoing ethics scandal.

Kitzhaber and First Lady Cylvia Hayes are facing a criminal investigation over allegations that they sold access to the governor's office to groups that wanted to shape public policy. Kitzhaber has repeatedly said he's done nothing wrong. But the scandal has become a major distraction at the capitol. 

House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney said they met personally with Kitzhaber to ask their fellow Democrat to resign. Courtney told reporters the political drama has reached a boiling point.

"I can't point to one thing that did it," Courtney said. "This isn't the first day of this; this is ongoing. So it's on this day at this time and this hour, it happened."

As recently as Wednesday afternoon, the governor said he had no plans to step down. Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, who would succeed Kitzhaber, issued a statement calling the situation "bizarre and unprecedented."

Brown issued her statement to explain why she abruptly left a conference in Washington, D.C. Wednesday and flew home to Oregon.

She said she returned at the request of the governor, who is under immense political pressure as he deals with an ethics scandal. But Brown said that when she arrived, the governor questioned why she had come. And she said Kitzhaber said he was not resigning, but then immediately starting talking about transition plans. 

The Oregon secretary of state is first in line of succession if the governor leaves office for any reason. Kitzhaber said Wednesday that he has no plans to resign.

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.