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Amid Influence-Peddling Scandal, Oregon Governor Resigns

Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber speaks in Salem, Ore.
Don Ryan
Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber speaks in Salem, Ore.

Consumed by an influence-peddling scandal, John Kitzhaber, Oregon's only four-term governor, has resigned.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that Kitzhaber made the announcement in a statement. OPB reports:

"'I apologize to all those people who gave of their faith, time, energy and resources to elect me to a fourth term last year,' said Kitzhaber.

"[Secretary of State Kate Brown] will serve as interim governor until 2016, when voters will elect their next leader.

"Kitzhaber's resignation comes after a number of allegations that he and First Lady Cylvia Hayes used government resources to promote business dealings of Hayes' private consulting firm, 3E Strategies.

"Public records released last week showed that Hayes and Kitzhaber had state employees implement policies that benefited the first lady's consulting work."

Kitzhaber, a Democrat, had for weeks resisted calls for his resignation, but yesterday, he lost the support of two of the state's most prominent Democrats — Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek.

Kitzhaber's resignation is in a lot of ways the climax of a strange political storythat began last fall, when the governor's longtime girlfriend, who has assumed the role of first lady,admitted that she had received $5,000 to marry a an Ethiopian man who wanted a green card.

Since then, report after report has emerged about how the first lady may have used her access to the governor's mansion to make money. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has started investigating Kitzhaber and Hayes.

Update at 5:18 p.m. ET. Sad Day For Oregon:

Kate Brown, who will become Oregon's new governor, said in a statement:

"This is a sad day for Oregon. But I am confident that legislators are ready to come together to move Oregon forward. I know you all have a lot of questions, and I will answer them as soon as possible. As you can imagine, there is a lot of work to be done between now and Wednesday."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.