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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.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber Resigns

Michael Clapp
File photo of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancee Cylvia Hayes.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced his resignation Friday afternoon under a cloud of pressure and scrutiny, cutting short his record-setting fourth term in office. The governor says his resignation is effective at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18.

As recently as Wednesday the governor said he would stay in office. 

The governor and his fiancee Cylvia Hayes face a criminal investigation and political pressure over allegations of selling access to his office.

His statement reads in part:

It is not in my nature to walk away from a job I have undertaken it is to stand and fight for the cause. For that reason I apologize to all those people who gave of their faith, time, energy and resources to elect me to a fourth term last year and who have supported me over the past three decades. I promise you that I will continue to pursue our shared goals and our common cause in another venue.

The state's largest newspaper, The Oregonian, and Portland alternative paper The Willamette Week have analyzed documents that appear to show Hayes using her closeness to the governor as a selling point for her consulting gigs.

The documents show she reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts with firms that want to influence Oregon policy.

Kitzhaber has repeatedly denied breaking any ethical or legal boundaries.

"We knew there was a grey area and we took intentional steps to try to clearly separate her volunteer activities as First Lady from her paid professional work," he told reporters in January.

Washington state Senator Kevin Ranker, a Democrat, responded to news of the resignation by saying he considered Kitzhaber a friend and ally on environmental issues.

“I hope that his legacy is that he was one of the better governors Oregon’s every seen and that should be his legacy,” Ranker said. "I do not believe this should tarnish his legacy or how we think of him or consider him years from now.”

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, who under the state Constitution will follow Kitzhaber as governor, is also a Democrat, and previously served in the state Legislature.

She'll be the second woman to be the governor of Oregon and the first openly LGBT person to serve as governor.


Before The Resignation

Brown issued a statement Thursday 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 to the governor's office. Public radio reporters are stationed outside her office in anticipation of a statement.

This report includes archived information and will be updated as this story develops.