Gov. John Kitzhaber

Gov. John Kitzhaber

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

There was a flurry of action and words this week as many in Oregon – particularly around the capitol building in Salem – waited to see if or when Governor John Kitzhaber would resign.

Following months of controversy surrounding fiance’ Cylvia Hayes and the contracts she secured, pressure steadily mounted for the governor to step down.

Kitzhaber finally caved in Friday, releasing a statement shortly past noon of his intentions to resign effective Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 10 a.m. Secretary of State Kate Brown will take over as governor.

“I have always had the deepest respect for the remarkable institution that is the Oregon Legislature; and for the office of the governor,” Kitzhaber’s statement read in part. “And I cannot in good conscience continue to be the element that undermines it. I have always tried to do the right thing and now the right thing to do is to step aside.”

Reaction from Oregon leaders was swift and supportive on Friday, while also emphasizing the need to move forward.

“Governor John Kitzhaber has accomplished much for Oregonians in his 35 years of public service to our state,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek, who on Thursday had publicly called for the governor to resign. “As a physician, as a legislator and as our governor, he has been a distinguished leader. I support his decision to resign because it is the right decision for Oregonians.

“Moving forward, I will continue to champion the priorities we have shared in the areas of equity in educational outcomes, quality early childhood education and rural economic development,” Kotek added. “The Oregon Legislature will meet the challenges facing Oregon and stands ready to show that even in the most trying times, we are committed to doing the right thing for the people of our state.”

State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who had also called for the resignation on Thursday, referenced a quote from the late Steve Prefontaine about how giving anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

“I have been around long enough to know that the resignation of Governor Kitzhaber and the constitutional mandate for an election in 2016 will set off a flurry of speculation about what happens next,” Wheeler said in a statement. “There will be a time for politics, but now is not that time. In the coming days, Oregonians should pull together to support Governor Brown and her team in their efforts to bring stability to the governor’s office.

“I thank Governor Kitzhaber for his many years of service to our state,” Wheeler added. “I wish him the very best in the years ahead. Oregonians are a resilient people, and I am certain that we will emerge from this difficult period as a stronger and more unified state.”

Republicans such as Oregon House Republican Leader Mike McLane weighed in as well.

“Today is a sad day for Oregon,” McLane said. “I take no delight in John Kitzhaber’s resignation but understand his decision. House Republicans have remained focused on working for the people of Oregon and that’s where our focus will remain moving forward.”

Senate Republican leader Ted Ferrioli offered similar sentiments.

“This is an unprecedented situation for Oregonians,” Ferrioli said. “I expect our leaders to work together to lead a thoughtful transition that respects Oregon citizens. We need to restore trust and accountability with the governor’s office and the executive branch.”

State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum emphasized Friday’s resignation will not change the ongoing investigation into Kitzhaber and Hayes.

“Today is a sad day for Oregon,” Rosenblum said. “I want to thank Governor Kitzhaber for his service to our state. The governor’s decision to resign will not affect our ongoing criminal investigation into allegations of his and Ms. Hayes’ conduct. Oregonians deserve nothing less than a full and fair investigation of all the facts, as well as the opportunity to reach a resolution that will truly allow our state to move forward.”