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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 Again Clash Over Role Of First Lady

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Campaign photos

The behavior of Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes provoked the sharpest exchanges during a gubernatorial debate in Portland Tuesday night on television station KGW.

Incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber declared that he would freeze out his fiancée from any policy-making roles in the near-term.

"Cylvia, as you know, is taking some personal time now to sort of address some of these issues herself and does not have a role in the administration and will not have a role until all the relevant questions are answered," the governor said.

Hayes has supplied the biggest headlines in the governor's race of late. It started with her admission of a sham marriage to help an Ethiopian immigrant get a green card. The latest admission is that she and an ex-boyfriend planned a marijuana grow operation when they lived in rural northeast Washington more than 15 years ago.

Governor John Kitzhaber said those revelations are personal matters that he and Hayes are working through. But the governor defended Hayes against yet other charges that she used her title of First Lady to secure lucrative contracts for her private consulting firm.

"I do not believe that any Oregon criminal laws or federal criminal laws were violated, period,” Kitzhaber said.

Republican challenger Dennis Richardson doesn't buy that. He said the governor should appoint a special prosecutor.

"For the governor to say that he hasn't seen that that's a problem, then he doesn't see corruption that is obvious to the rest of us,” Richardson said.

Richardson is trying to become the first Republican to be elected governor in Oregon since 1982. If Kitzhaber wins re-election it would be for his fourth term.

In August, the twice-divorced Kitzhaber announced he proposed marriage to his First Lady, the thrice-divorced Hayes.