Gov. John Kitzhaber will step down as Oregon’s governor and will be replaced by Secretary of State Kate Brown.
That announcement was made Friday in a statement by Kitzhaber. The resignation would take effect at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18.
“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.
Kitzhaber blamed the media for driving him to resignation.
“It is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and no independent verification of the allegations involved,” he said.
He described himself as a “liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career.”
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.
In his resignation statement, Kitzhaber maintained that he would eventually be cleared of the charges.
“I am confident that I have not broken any laws,” he said. “I am equally confident that once [the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and attorney general investigations] have been concluded Oregonians will see that I have never put anything before my love for and commitment to Oregon.”
Brown left a secretaries of state conference in Washington, D.C. to return to Oregon Wednesday afternoon, causing rumors that Kitzhaber planned to leave office.
By Wednesday afternoon, Kitzhaber squashed those rumors and said he had no plans to resign.
But Brown hit back Thursday, saying she was specifically called back to Oregon by the governor. She described it as a “bizarre and unprecedented situation.”
“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,” Brown said. “He asked me why I came back early from Washington, D.C., which I found strange.”
“The Governor told me he was not resigning, after which, he began a discussion about transition,” she said.
Democratic leaders began to call for Kitzhaber’s resignation Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said she had opened a criminal investigation into Kitzhaber and Hayes. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission was also considering an investigation, but that would have to wait until Rosenblum’s case is finished.
Prior to Kitzhaber’s resignation, he said he had nothing to hide and welcomed Rosenblum’s investigation.
“I deeply regret that this situation has become a distraction from the important work of our state and look forward to your review and its conclusions,” Kitzhaber wrote.
Brown was elected as the secretary of state in 2008. Before that, she spent 17 years as a state legislator. She was appointed to the state House of Representatives in 1991 and was elected to the Oregon Senate in 1996. In 2004, she became the first woman to serve as Senate majority leader in Oregon.
When Brown was first elected secretary of state, LGBT news outlets identified her as the first openly bisexual person to hold a statewide office.
In addition to her political career, Brown practiced family and juvenile law for two decades. She received her J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in 1985 and an undergraduate degree from University of Colorado Boulder in 1981.