SALEM — As she became Oregon’s 38th governor Wednesday, Kate Brown pledged that neither she nor her staff would accept outside compensation.
In remarks after she took her oath from Chief Justice Thomas Balmer in the House chamber at the Capitol, she also says she will work for changes to strengthen the independence of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and the release of public documents.
“We must seize the moment to work across party lines to restore the public’s trust,” Brown said just 38 days after John Kitzhaber took his oath for a fourth term in the same chamber. “We should not leave here until we get this done.”
Brown, as secretary of state, succeeds Kitzhaber, the first Oregon governor to resign under pressure amid influence-peddling allegations against him and fiancée Cylvia Hayes. The allegations involve Hayes using her position as first lady to boost her private consulting business.
Brown addressed the issue directly in her remarks:
“I pledge to you today that for long as I am your governor, I will not seek or accept any outside compensation, from any source. And I pledge further that while I am governor, the members of my household and the members of my staff will not seek or accept any outside compensation, from any source, for work related to the business of the state of Oregon. That simply won’t happen.”
Brown took the oath at 10 a.m., when Kitzhaber’s resignation took effect.
Brown and Kitzhaber met privately earlier this week, but no details of what they might have discussed were disclosed.
“It’s been a tough few months,” Brown said. “The people of Oregon have had reason to question their trust in state government. Oregon has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons.
“That changes starting today. It’s time for us to get back to work. It’s time to move Oregon forward.”
Wednesday’s transition makes a generational change in Oregon politics. Brown’s four Democratic predecessors, including Kitzhaber, were born before, during or just after World War II.
Among those in the House chamber were two of them: Barbara Roberts, the first woman in the job, and Ted Kulongoski, Kitzhaber’s successor in 2003 and predecessor in 2011, when Kitzhaber returned for a record third term.
Also among those present were Dan Little, her husband, and her mother, Sally.
Brown will serve until the 2016 general election, when she can seek the remaining two years in Kitzhaber’s term. The Oregon Constitution requires the interim election. If she runs andwins, Brown will be eligible in 2018 to seek a single term of her own.
The secretary of state is the next in line of succession to the governor under the Oregon Constitution, which does not provide for a lieutenant governor.
The secretary of state oversees elections — which are conducted by officials in Oregon’s 36 counties — and is in charge of audits and state records, and maintains the business registry and business portal.
Brown, 54, was a Portland attorney specializing in family and juvenile law before she got involved in state politics. She was appointed to a vacant seat in the Oregon House in 1991 and was there two terms before she won an open Oregon Senate seat in 1996.
Just two years later, she became Senate Democratic leader, a position she would hold for almost nine years. During that time, she led her party to a majority in the Senate.
As chairman of the Senate Rules Committee in 2007, Brown was floor manager for an overhaul of the government-ethics law recommended by the Oregon Law Commission.
She resigned as majority leader in mid-2007 to prepare for her successful 2008 campaign for secretary of state. She was re-elected in 2012. Both times, she won 51 percent of the votes cast in multi-candidate races.
Brown will have to appoint someone to succeed her as secretary of state, also for the rest of her term ending with the 2016 general election.
— The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.