(Bloomberg Politics) — With every passing day, Oregon’s political soap opera seems to grow more bizarre.
Gov. John Kitzhaber continues to resist calls from members of his own party, as well as from the state’s leading newspaper, to resign over corruption allegations involving the governor’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes.
A surreal and fluid timeline of the alleged scandal crescendoed on Wednesday, after Kitzhaber summoned Kate Brown, Oregon’s Secretary of State and the person in line to succeed the governor should he resign, back from a conference in Washington, D.C. As word spread that Kitzhaber had requested that Brown return to Salem, the speculation in the state capitol was that his resignation was imminent. Then came a further perplexing statement from Brown.
“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,” Brown said.
The statement was just the latest twist in the story, as many observers noted.
Keeping up with this drama has proven a challenge in and of itself. Here’s a brief recap on where things stand at the moment. Who is John Kitzhaber?
A former emergency room doctor, Kitzhaber was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1978. After one term, he went on to win a seat in the Oregon Senate, where he served three terms. Kitzhaber was elected Oregon’s 37th governor in 1994, and was re-elected four years later. In 2010, Kitzhaber, now 67, was elected to a third term, and in 2014 made history by becoming the first person to be elected to four terms as the state’s governor. Politically, Kitzhaber is perhaps best known for his stance against capital punishment—in 2011 he declared a moratorium on the death penalty in Oregon—and for presiding over the disastrous roll-out of the state’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange enrollment website.
Who is Cylvia Hayes?
Twenty years Kitzhaber’s junior, Hayes became romantically involved with the governor in 2002, when she unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the state House of Representatives. She became Oregon’s First Lady when Kitzhaber was again sworn into office in 2010. Hayes is also the founder and chief executive officer of 3EStrategies, a clean energy consulting firm, but by 2014, her less-than-reputable past seemed to catch up with her.
During the 2014 election, it came to light that Hayes accepted $5,000 to marry an Ethiopian immigrant in order to grant him legal status in the United States. Hayes had never told Kitzhaber about the relationship, she said during a teary news conference.