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What Happens If Gov. Kitzhaber Leaves Office Early

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


What would happen if Governor Kitzhaber stepped down or was removed from office? 

The scandal unfolding around the Governor and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, is picking up speed, showing no signs of stopping since Hayes disclosed all her earnings from the nonprofit Clean Economy Development Center while she was in an advising-role for the government.  

In the last week, the state’s largest news outlet called for Kitzhaber’s resignation, Oregon’s top prosecutor called the situation serious, and when the Governor finally asked for an independent investigation, he learned one was already underway. 

On Monday, Jan. 9, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced her office was already looking into Kitzhaber’s administration and Hayes’ role as a public official and private consultant. 

If the Governor was removed or stepped down, Secretary of State Kate Brown would be appointed to the office.

She would then serve until the next general biennial election, meaning if Kitzhaber left this year, a new governor would be elected in 2016. 

James C. Foster, a Political Science Professor at Oregon State University Cascades, said the state would need to reexamine its political identity if Kitzhaber left office early. 

“There would be a serious of period of mourning,” Foster said. 

“This state has had an image of being different than others, with a different political class—a squeaky clean class,” Foster said. 

Line of succession
Should Brown need replacement, the next official in line would be  State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, moving down to President of the Senate Peter Courtney, then the Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek.  
Foster said the impact would be felt around the Beaver state. 

“It would be fairly traumatic,” Foster said. “It would be a serious disappointment for a lot of us, causing us to reflect our own judgment. Also, there would be a shift in legislative priorities and the governor’s budget.” 

Secretary of State Kate Brown

Kitzhaber’s agenda and the budget would have to be driven by legislative leaders such as Courtney. 

Foster said Brown has been fairly aligned with Kitzhaber’s priorities and issues, so she would most likely keep things in line with Kitzhaber’s policy.  

“She’d be sure to pick up the reins where [Kitzhaber] left, and be a caretaker,” Foster said. “It would be a lateral shift.” 

Although a new governor would create a transitional period for the legislative session, Foster said he doubts it will “derail” the entire session. 

If Kitzhaber leaves office early, Foster said it may be an issue for the Democratic Party and their replacement candidate. However, he doubts it would be a deciding issue that would seriously influence the election. 

The Oregonian Editorial Board called for Kitzhaber’s resignation last week. There have been two attempts to file recall petitions as well. However, both were void because in Oregon recall petitions cannot be filed until six months into a term. 

Kitzhaber would be the first Oregon governor to resign since 1952. Gov. Douglas McKay left his office after he was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Eisenhower. A total of seven governors have resigned their office since 1850. Another four have died while in office. 

If Kitzhaber does leave office early, it will have more than a political impact, but a social one as well, according to Foster. 

“We will need to seriously sit and reexamine what’s going on in the state.” 


Related Slideshow: What Governor Kitzhaber Said at His Jan. Cylvia Hayes Press Conference

Governor John Kitzhaber held a press conference on Jan. 30, 2015, where he fielded questions surrounding his fiancé and Oregon’s “First Lady” Cylvia Hayes. 

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Kitzhaber told media Friday, Jan. 30 he would not consider resigning. 

“Of course not,” he said. “I was elected by the people of this state to do a job, and I intend to do it.”

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The Governor said he did not see any problem in hiring Ball Janik, a firm that lobbies for Oregon in Washington, D.C., to defend him and Cylvia Hayes against allegations that include lobbying. 

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Kitzhaber said he has not been contacted by the FBI.

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The Governor said he did not instruct his attorney Leanni Reaves to loosen ethics guidelines for Cylvia Hayes. 

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“Our intention has always been to try to navigate this undefined area of First Lady,” Kitzhaber said during the press conference. 

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The Governor does not believe that an independent investigation is necessary, when asked if a body other than the ethics commission appointed by him should investigate. 

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When asked why the Governor did not keep Cylvia Hayes physically out of her office, he answered, “We tried to draw that line.” 

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“I am in love,” the Governor said. "I do not believe I have been blinded by love, I am 'eyes wide open.'”

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“I have no idea whether she [Cylvia] is legally a member of my household.”

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Cylvia Hayes is in Sweden visiting friends, the Governor said. 

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The Governor at one point compared himself to controversial Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. 

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The Governor said he is not trying to reach a deal with the ethics commission. 

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The Governor does not believe that an independent investigation is necessary, when asked if a body other than the ethics commission appointed by him should investigate. 

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“The government ethics commission has a process and a sanction process. We will embrace that,” Kitzhaber said. “Well the Government ethics commission has a process and has a series of sanctions that it can take and we will obviously and have been complying and cooperating fully with the commission and we will embrace whatever decisions and sanctions they feel is appropriate."

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“Cylvia and I have a number of areas of common interest, climate change being one, low carbon fuels being one,” Kitzhaber said. "The fact that we have a convergence of intents does not seem to me to apply that if those issues apply in my administration that influence has been exerted."

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Cylvia Hayes will play no role in the Governor’s office for the next four years, according to Kitzhaber.


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