Oregon will get a new governor next week in the wake of the resignation of John Kitzhaber amid a scandal centered on a potential conflict of interest involving his fiancee’s green-energy consultations. Under the state constitution, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown is the next in line for the governor’s office, where she will become the first openly bisexual governor in the U.S.
Active in Oregon politics for the past two dozen years, Brown, 54, served in the state House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997 and in the state Senate from 1997 to 2009. She won election to her present position in 2008 and re-election to it in 2012, according to Ballotpedia. Both Brown and Kitzhaber are Democrats.
Brown focused much of her time as secretary of state on streamlining Oregon’s business services, auditing the government to save taxpayer dollars. She also modernized the state’s ballot system and implemented laws to curb electoral fraud. Brown had been touted as one of the state’s best lawmakers, and she has won several awards for her work during her 24 years of public service.
Kitzhaber called Brown back from Washington, D.C., to Oregon Tuesday for a meeting, which had elements she found “strange,” the secretary of state said. She also said, “This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.” However, she added that she was ready to assume the governship.
Kitzhaber resigned Friday after fellow Oregon Democrats called on him to do so. He was caught in a scandal centered on his fiancee’s employment with a green-energy firm at the same time she was serving as an adviser on green energy to his cabinet.
You can read some of Brown’s own words on her sexuality at the Atlantic. She wrote about it in the context of stories by politicians who are openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Brown is married to Dan Little, has two stepchildren and lives in Portland.
Brown was born in Madrid while her father was serving with the U.S. Air Force in Spain. With a focus on environmental law, she earned her law degree at the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College in Portland. For details about the incoming governor, see the biography at KGW.com.