FEB. 16, 2015 — Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), seeing his conflict of interest scandal involving his longtime fiancé cost him key political support, announced that he will resign his office this Wednesday. Because Oregon has no lieutenant governor, Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) will replace the four-term chief executive. Dr. Kitzhaber, a physician, is the only person in Oregon state history to be elected to the top office four separate times.
Though not legally married to the governor, Cylvia Hayes serves as Oregon’s First Lady. Her failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from environmental organizations with business before the state, after Kitzhaber promised complete compliance with the Oregon disclosure laws for he and Ms. Hayes, began his downfall. Gov. Kitzhaber won re-election last November even after his conflict of interest with Hayes became common knowledge. But, the situation re-intensified during the past three weeks.
Once leading newspapers in the state, such as the Portland Oregonian, called upon the governor to resign last week, and Republicans began initiating a recall effort, prominent Democratic legislative leaders followed suit in calling for the governor to step down. Kitzhaber was reportedly going to resign in the middle of last week, but changed his mind. He will now do so for sure on Wednesday morning. Brown assumes the office shortly afterwards.
Under Oregon succession law, Brown will only serve until the next general election. In the regular 2016 election cycle, she will stand to serve the balance of Kitzhaber’s final two years. Brown would then be eligible to seek re-election to a full four-year term in 2018.
Dr. Kitzhaber was first elected governor in 1994, defeating former congressman Denny Smith (R-OR-5) with 51 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 1998 with 64 percent. Barred from seeking a third consecutive term, Dr. Kitzhaber returned after eight years in 2010 to eke out a close 49-48 percent over former Portland Trail Blazers basketball player Chris Dudley (R). He won his fourth term this past November, topping state Sen. Dennis Richardson (R) in another close election, 50-44 percent.
Last week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced its Frontline program for incumbents — those presumed to have the most difficult re-election battles in 2016. Now, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has made public the first 12 members of their companion Patriot Program.
The GOP list is not particularly surprising. Those members, mostly freshmen, who had the tightest races in 2014 comprise the group.
It includes the closest Republican winner, Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ-2), and six new members, representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), Mike Bost (R-IL-12), Cresent Hardy (R-NV-4), Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), John Katko (R-NY-24), and Will Hurd (R-TX-23), who defeated Democratic incumbents last November.
A pair of representatives, Bob Dold (R-IL-10) and Frank Guinta (R-NH-1), who were elected in 2010, defeated two years later, and then returned to victory in 2014, are also included in the 2016 Patriot Program’s first edition.
Two-term Rep. David Valadao (R-CA-21), who represents the most Democratic district to elect a Republican Representative, is again a program participant.
Finally, two individuals who won open Obama seats, representatives David Young (R-IA-3) and Bruce Poliquin (R-ME-2), round out the selected group.
Perhaps the only surprise is the exclusion of freshman Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA-1), who was an upset winner in a heavily Democratic eastern Iowa district. But, Blum choosing to oppose Speaker John Boehner’s re-election is likely the chief reason his name does not adorn the list.