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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Kitzhaber, Richardson Clash Over Role Of First Lady

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John Rosman
/
OPB

Oregon Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber and Republican challenger Dennis Richardson clashed Friday over the role of the state's first lady during a debate at Portland City Club.

It's been a trying week for Kitzhaber. A secret held by his longtime partner and fiancée Cylvia Hayes was revealed. In 1997, she married an 18-year-old immigrant to help him get a green card. In exchange she was paid $5,000.

Hayes apologized publicly for what she called an illegal act. Kitzhaber says he supports her.

"This is now a very personal issue and we just need some time to work through this together,” the governor said.

Republican Dennis Richardson agreed that it was a personal issue. But in a separate matter he accused the first lady of using her title to secure lucrative consulting gigs.

"I call on the governor to ask for a special prosecutor to investigate this. Because he's speaking now as a fiancée and I certainly understand that,” Richardson said. “ But he's also the governor and who's gonna speak for the people if our governor's speaking as a fiancée."

Kitzhaber said a special prosecutor is not needed and that the first lady's contracts were above board.

The two candidates also differed sharply on policy issues including education and the environment. Kitzhaber is seeking an unprecedented fourth term as Oregon governor.