Gov. John Kitzhaber has resigned as Oregon's governor, little more than a month after he was sworn in as the first four-term governor in the state's history. His resignation will take effect Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 10 a.m.
The resignation caps a tumultuous week in which Kitzhaber appeared to have decided to resign, only to change his mind at least twice.
Kitzhaber, 67, has seen his 36-year political career consumed by an influence-peddling scandal centered on private consulting contracts that his fiancee, first lady Cylvia Hayes, obtained from advocacy groups seeking to impact state policy.
Those contracts, which paid Hayes more than $200,000, also benefited Kitzhaber because the two share a household. WW first reported on Hayes' contracts and the conflict of interest they presented last October and since then new allegations have emerged.
Kitzhaber, despite winning re-election in November, has seen his administration undercut by a series of questions about his knowledge and involvement that he has been unwilling to answer.
His political position weakened Jan. 30, when he held a 20-minute press conference to speak a previously undisclosed $118,000 contract Hayes received in 2011 and 2012, and the possibility she failed to report the income on her tax return. Kitzhaber's evasiveness at the press conference started the drumbeat that led state leaders to consider he might be forced to resign.
Kitzhaber said then he had no intention of stepping down. Matters worsened dramatically this week, when Kitzhaber abruptly summoned Secretary of State Kate Brown back from a conference she was leading in Washington, D.C. By law, Brown will become governor on Wednesday.
Kitzhaber told Brown he was summoning her to discuss his resignation face-to-face. But when she arrived back in Portland, Kitzhaber bizarrely told her that he was not resigning—and told reporters he didn't know why she'd come home early.
Hours later, Democratic legislative leaders and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, also a Democrat, called for his resignation on Thursday.
Brown, who like Kitzhaber is a Democrat, will now become governor. Brown will then serve until the 2016 general election, when candidates will compete to serve out the remainder of Kitzhaber's term, which would have run through 2018.
Here is the governor's full statement as released by his office shortly after noon today: