In the Capitol
The official resignation of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is set to take place Wednesday morning. It comes after a series of events that have thus far completely overshadowed the 2015 legislative session.
All the signs were there before the session that the scandals involving the governor and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, were going to continue dominating the headlines statewide. A big hint that it was all about to come crashing down was when the Oregonian published an editorial calling for his resignation. This was the same paper that had endorsed him mere months prior.
Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard) had held a town hall meeting, at which she was asked about the governor. She replied that it was like waiting for the other shoe to drop, but with an octopus. That was a very fitting analogy for what was going on.
By the time the session started earlier this month, it seemed like at least six shoes had already dropped. But a couple of shoes were left to drop and it felt like it wasn’t going to take much longer.
Last week saw the controversy cast a cloud over virtually all the rest of the official legislative business taking place at the state capitol in Salem.
Rumors about Kitzhaber’s resignation flew through the halls and beyond literally the second that Secretary of State Kate Brown abruptly flew back from a national conference in Washington D.C. She will, of course, become governor once Kitzhaber’s resignation takes effect.
On February 12, two days before the state’s birthday, the wheels came off completely. And it all fell apart in real time.
By one o’clock that afternoon, Democratic leaders were publicly calling for Governor Kitzhaber to resign. Throughout the building, legislators and staffers were visibly ashen. The atmosphere quickly became surreal. Visitors to the capitol began the trend of taking pictures in front of Kitzhaber’s official portrait, located just outside of his ceremonial office.
The following morning—Friday the 13th—it was expected that his resignation was imminent.
By noon, press outlets from all over the state were swarming the governor’s office. Reporters conducted live broadcasts in front of a set of closed doors as the crowd gathered and grew.
It was almost anticlimactic in that room when Kitzhaber’s official resignation announcement was released. The assembled TV news crews packed up their cameras and relocated to Brown’s current office downstairs.
Despite Kitzhaber’s official resignation, this situation is nowhere near finished playing itself out, and it already has all the elements of a Greek tragedy.
Here was a powerful man who served two terms as governor after stints in the House and as President of the Oregon Senate. He left office famously declaring the state “ungovernable” after fighting with the Republicans who controlled the Legislature at the time. His habit of vetoing their bills had earned him the nickname “Dr. No.”
Ted Kulongoski took over as governor in 2003 and Kitzhaber became a private citizen.
He sat on the sidelines for eight years, many of them in the company of a new and much younger lover whose ambitions had fueled her own meteoric rise. Kulongoski served two terms, after which Kitzhaber had the opportunity to have a redemption of sorts. (more…)