Friday, February 13, 2015

Kitzhaber resigns; Brown becomes governor

Kitzhaber, left, leaves office to Brown on Feb. 18
Three months after he was easily elected to an unprecedented fourth term as Oregon's governor and a month after being sworn in to serve that term, Democrat John Kitzhaber threw in the towel today after evidence mounted that his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, peddled her influence for monetary gain.

Much of  this information was made public before Kitzhaber's reelection in November, but his opponent, Republican Dennis Richardson, was so weak that Kitzhaber breezed to victory.

Also known at the time was Hayes' fraudulent marriage to an Ethiopian for money so he could gain residency in the U.S. And, Hayes' apparently sought to buy land in Washington state in 1997 for the purpose of growing marijuana well before it was even legal there.

Kitzhaber met Hayes, 20 years his junior, in Bend in 2002 and the next year he divorced his wife.

To say that Hayes is a conniving gold-digger is not far off the mark.

It also says much about Kitzhaber's judgment that he would take up with such a dubious individual.

Almost all the allegations so far centered on Hayes and not Kitzhaber, but that didn't matter in the end.

Because his third term as governor was so terrible, Kitzhaber shouldn't have run again. Yes, I voted for him all four times and have no misgivings about that.

The state health exchange, Cover Oregon, was a total disaster. Millions were wasted. This is ironic considering Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, championed health insurance for poor Oregonians.

Also, in his third term, Kitzhaber fired the popular president of the University of Oregon because he gave the professors a raise. Colleges in Oregon gets less than 10 percent of their budgets from the state. Kitzhaber was way out of line. Oregon now has an independent board of regents.

He hired the oft-fired Rudy Crew as state education czar who bailed after one year.

Meanwhile, high school graduation rates plummeted.

To be fair to Kitzhaber and Hayes, they'res alleged to have pushed for sustainability causes. Plus, Kitzhaber was considering a low carbon fuel standard in the fight against climate change.

Those are good causes, but the Big Oil lobby went on the attack, with Republican support, and we now know the result.

Influence peddling is nothing new. In fact, it is exactly how government operates. Sometimes you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar and sometimes you don't.

Hayes, apparently, got caught.

Kitzhaber, though, was a great gate-keeper for the environment, women's rights and gay rights against the assaults on those causes from the Republicans.

Now, we get Democrat Kate Brown, currently the secretary of state, as our next governor until at least 2016.

The Washington Post story focuses on her bi-sexuality, rather than her qualifications as governor. Oregon's speaker of the House is a lesbian. Obviously, Oregon is a tolerant place for LGBT candidates.

When Brown was reelected to her current post in 2014, no major newspaper in the state endorsed her. Instead, they backed Republican Knute Buehler, a political nobody from Bend. She won easily.

Brown is likely to get chewed up by the media scrutiny and will have a tough time being an effective governor.

This should open the door for the Republicans to finally regain the governorship after three decades in the wilderness.

Yet, to survive the Republican primary, the candidate has to be a right-wingnut whose values are too extreme for most Oregonians. Think Ted Cruz or Rand Paul.

That's okay by me. Democrats care more about the environment than Republicans do. They also represent all Oregonians, not just the richest 1 percent that Republicans routinely bend over for.

Goodbye Kitzhaber, you did well for the most part, but it was time to go.

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