SALEM Secretary of State Kate Brown says she is unsure what to make of a meeting between her and Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is under pressure to resign.
Democratic legislative leaders and state Treasurer Ted Wheeler publicly urged Kitzhaber on Thursday to resign amid allegations of influence-peddling involving himself and first lady Cylvia Hayes.
Brown – who is next in line in succession – issued a statement Thursday describing the meeting they had the previous day after her early return from Washington, D.C., where she was at a conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
Her statement in part:
He asked me to come back to Oregon as soon as possible to speak with him in person and alone.
I got on a plane yesterday (Wednesday) morning and arrived at 3:40 in the afternoon. I was escorted directly into a meeting with the governor. It was a brief meeting. He asked me why I came back early from Washington, D.C., which I found strange. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. The governor told me he was not resigning, after which, he began a discussion about transition.
This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.
Their Wednesday meeting occurred after a lawyer for Kitzhaber – and then Kitzhaber himself, through a statement issued by his press office – said he had no intention of resigning.
I am stunned, says former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Kitzhabers successor and predecessor, who otherwise did not want to elaborate on Browns statement after it was read to him by phone. This is not the John Kitzhaber I know.
Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat from Salem who has urged Kitzhaber to resign, described Browns statement as amazing.
Brown refrained from urging Kitzhaber to resign.
I informed the governor that I am ready, and my staff will be ready, should he resign, she says. Right now I am focused on doing my job for the people of Oregon.
But state Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who is second in line in succession, minced no words.
Wheeler, who would become the next in line if Kitzhaber resigns and Brown becomes governor, says in his statement:
It is with deep sadness that I ask Governor John Kitzhaber to resign his position as governor of Oregon. He has accomplished many great things during his long career, and history will be kinder to him than current events suggest.
Unfortunately, the current situation has become untenable, and I cannot imagine any scenario by which things improve. Oregon deserves a governor who is fully focused on the duties of state.
I hope the governor will do the right thing for Oregon and its citizens.
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