In a letter submitted to Secretary of State Kate Brown, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, 67, resigned effective Feb. 18 amid allegations his fiancee used her relationship with him to enrich herself.
“I am announcing today that I will resign as governor of the state of Oregon,” he wrote in a statement released just after noon Friday.
The fourth-term governor’s resignation comes amid the growing scandal involving him and his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, 47. Newspapers have chronicled Hayes’ work for organizations with an interest in Oregon public policy. At the same time, she was also playing an active role in the Kitzhaber administration, an apparent conflict of interest.
Hayes revealed she accepted about $5,000 to illegally marry a man seeking immigration benefits in the 1990s. She also admitted she bought a remote property with the intent to grow marijuana.
Late last week, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum opened a criminal investigation into Kitzhaber and Hayes, who were also named in three ethics complaints filed last year with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.
Kitzhaber insisted he broke no laws.
“Nonetheless, I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life,” he said.
The Democrat governor is the first in state history to resign in disgrace.
The decision is so unusual that state officials initially didn’t know how the chain of succession would work. Because Oregon has no lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, Brown, a Democrat, is first in line to succeed the governor. She would become the first openly bisexual governor in U.S. history.
“Kate Brown will make history as the first openly bisexual American to become governor, and that makes us and the entire LGBT community extremely proud,” said Victory Fund Interim Executive Director Denis Dison in a statement on the organization’s website.
Brown is married to husband Dan Little and is believed to be the highest-ranking bisexual elected official in America. She has publicly discussed her bisexuality in past campaigns and published an essay about it.
It will mark the second time in Brown’s career she has taken office due to a resignation. In 1991, she was appointed to the state House following the resignation of Democrat Rep. Judy Bauman, who left office because she was appointed to an executive position.
It is unknown what Brown’s governorship will look like, but during her time as a legislator she has pushed for increased transparency
Brown brings her own controversy as she finds herself explaining why she wrote a letter to the FCC endorsing Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable after having received campaign contributions from Comcast. Consumer activists have warned the deal would reduce competition and lead to higher prices. According the National Institute of Money in State Politics, Comcast has given Brown $9,500 since 2009.