Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber Drags State Into Twilight Zone

Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber Drags State Into Twilight Zone

Oregonians had quite the busy day yesterday as they watched the runaway train that is Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancee Cylvia start taking that dive off the cliff.

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This is a Governor whose fiancee is involved in some very shady dealings and sham marriages. This is a Governor who has egg on his face because of the failure of the Cover Oregon healthcare system, and is facing multiple ethics violations. With all those issues, one would think that a Governor would gracefully step aside rather than continue to double down on staying put. OH NO! Not this Governor! On January 30th, he holds a disastrous press conference:

I’d say that went well… NOT! That performance along with other information led to yesterday’s meeting between the Governor and a few of his closest allies. Laura Gunderson at The Oregonian reports:

Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek met with Gov. John Kitzhaber on Thursday morning and told him it was time to resign.

At a 1 p.m. press conference to discuss the meeting, Courtney said the discussion with Kitzhaber was difficult.

Sen. Peter Courtney tells assembled press that he and House Speaker Tina Kotek asked Gov. Kitzhaber to resign in a meeting at the governor’s office this morning

“He was upset,” Courtney said. “He was defiant. He was struggling.”
“This thing is evolving by the second.”
Courtney said that he and Kotek have been trying to get security for Secretary of State Kate Brown, who would become governor if Kitzhaber were to step down.
Courtney said that he had received a note from the governor’s staff earlier in the day saying that Kitzhaber was attempting to reach the secretary of state to “set up the transition.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Courtney said.

There’s a reason why Senate President Peter Courtney didn’t know what Kitzhaber meant about setting up a transition with Secretary of State Kate Brown. Reid Wilson at the Washington Post has the details:

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) called Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) on Tuesday and asked her to leave a conference in Washington, D.C., to return home as soon as possible. Kitzhaber wanted a face-to-face meeting, reportedly with the intention of telling Brown he would resign and that she would be governor.

That meeting must’ve been a doozy! Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office released a statement that has given one heckuva jolt to the citizens of Oregon, the media, and the world of politics.

Late Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from the Governor while I was in Washington, D.C.m at a Secretaries of State conference. He asked me to come back to Oregon as soon as possible to speak with him in person and alone.
I got on a plane yesterday morning and arrived at 3:40 in the afternoon. I was escorted directly into a meeting with the Governor. It was a brief meeting. He asked me why I came back early from Washington, D.C., which I found strange. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. The Governor told me he was not resigning, after which, he began a discussion about transition.
This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.
I informed the Governor that I am ready, and my staff will be ready, should he resign. Right now I am focused on doing my job for the people of Oregon.

Bizarre and unprecedented is putting it mildly! I honestly have to wonder if the man has gone off his meds? Or maybe he needs to be put on meds? That is truly the only explanation I can come up with regarding yesterday’s events. At the moment, there isn’t a resignation planned. Instead citizens of Oregon are dealing with the additional news that their Governor has attempted to pull a Lois Lerner. Willamette Week’s Nigel Jaquiss writes:

Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office last week requested state officials destroy thousands of records in the governor’s personal email accounts, according to records obtained by WW and 101.9 KINK/FM News 101 KXL.

The request came as investigations into allegations of influence-peddling involving Kitzhaber and first lady Cylvia Hayes were intensifying.

Records show the request to destroy Kitzhaber’s emails came from Jan Murdock, Kitzhaber’s executive assistant. She wanted all emails from Kitzhaber’s personal email accounts removed from state servers.

The request from Murdock was described in a Feb. 5 email. “Governor’s office wants anything that is in the email account [Kitzhaber’s account] removed from archive,” wrote Tracy Osburn, a field technician in the DAS Technology Support Center, wrote in the email obtained by WW and 101.9 KINK/FM News 101 KXL.

One bright note for everyone: the state officials refused to comply with that request. But that’s about the only good thing that has happened for Oregon in the last few weeks. The rest of the bad, so far, is that the Governor was indeed involved in his fiancee’s attempt to direct state policy with the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), still refuses to resign, and has retained a high-profile criminal defense attorney.

Regardless of political affiliation, a Governor should be a leader, and should be responsive to the citizens of the state he or she has been elected to serve. A Governor should NOT be spending months desperately scrambling to protect his wife and himself from scandal.

Governor Kitzhaber should look at the writing on the wall, do what’s best for the citizens of the state and resign immediately. Yet he won’t. Instead, a defiant tantrum-throwing Governor has dragged his state into a newly minted episode of the Twilight Zone. What happens in the next episode? Stay tuned, I’ve a feeling it won’t be pretty.

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