PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – Calls for Gov. John Kitzhaber to resign are coming from many quarters of his Democratic allies, while the Oregon Attorney General said the investigation into the governor and Cylvia Hayes is “a criminal matter.”
Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek both called on Kitzhaber to step aside, as did State Treasurer Ted Wheeler. State Sen. Rod Monroe, a Democrat from the 24th District, said Sen. Courtney met with the Democratic Senate membership Thursday morning and informed them Courtney asked Kitzhaber to resign.
Monroe said Kotek also asked Kitzhaber to step down. A spokesperson for Kotek’s office also confirmed that information to KOIN 6 News.
Later, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum would not comment on the status of the investigation into Gov. Kitzhaber and his fiancee Cylvia Hayes, saying it is a “criminal matter.” The Secretary of State’s office also ruled Kitzhaber cannot use unspent campaign funds to pay for his legal defense.
Democrats go public
Courtney said the controversy and the impact of the ongoing investigations are compromising the governor’s effectiveness and that of his staff. He read a statement after he answered questions at an impromptu press conference Thursday. “I assumed a resignation was coming,” he said. “This would have been the press release.”
“He served in the Oregon House as a Representative. He served in the Oregon State Senate. He was the President of the Oregon State Senate for a record number of years. He was elected and has served as Oregon’s governor for more than 12 years – longer than anyone else. No public servant has given more to Oregon.
“And there is another side. He is a friend. He is a son. He is a brother. He is a father. He is a human being.
“It is all of these things for which I hope he is remembered. I hope all of these things are his legacy. He deserves that. Governor John Albert Kitzhaber, MD. I am sorry.
“I know that together Oregon and her people will get through this.”
Earlier in the press conference, Courtney said, “I don’t know what he’s going to do. He’s the governor of Oregon. I’m just Peter.”
Courtney said Kitzhaber was upset and defiant when he said no.
State Treasurer Ted Wheeler released this statement just before 1 p.m. Thursday:
“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.”
Wheeler told KOIN 6 News Oregon deserves a Governor who’s focused on his duties to the people.
“I think the significant issue is, the credibility of Oregon is at stake and the public needs to know the Governor is fully engaged in addressing the issues of the state,” Wheeler said.
What the governor said
Gov. Kitzhaber spoke to KOIN 6 News Wednesday night after meeting with Secretary of State Kate Brown. He reiterated that he had no plans to leave office.
“We met privately today,” Gov. Kitzhaber told KOIN 6 News Wednesday night in regard to Secretary of State Kate Brown. “It is my intention not to resign. She is the vice president, second in line, but I have no intention to resign. I will do the job I was elected to do.”
Sources with direct knowledge of the situation said Gov. Kitzhaber had reached a decision to resign because of an ethics scandal surrounding him and his fiancée, but he changed his mind after meeting with Courtney and Kotek.