More than two years after resigning, former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber didn’t rule out a future run for public office when asked by OPB.
Kitzhaber also expressed some regrets about stepping down amid an ethics scandal involving his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes.
“I’m feeling both very happy and fully vindicated,” he said Friday, during an interview with OPB’s “All Things Considered.” Saturday, Hayes said in a Facebook post that she was confident the probe would not reveal criminal wrongdoing but says she made mistakes that worsened the scandal.
On Friday, Oregon’s U.S. Attorney’s Office announced it wouldn’t file criminal charges against the state’s longest-serving governor and his fiancee, following an investigation by federal prosecutors, the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.
Kitzhaber and Hayes had been accused of using government resources to promote more than $200,000 in business dealings with Hayes’ private consulting company.
Both Kitzhaber and Hayes have consistently denied any wrongdoing.
“After due-diligence, the U.S. attorney came to the same conclusion that I started out with two years ago: that there was never anything here,” Kitzhaber told OPB.
The former governor defended his years of public service — and also didn’t rule out a future run for public office.
“I need to absorb this before I make any decisions,” he said. “I still care passionately about a number of issues, and we’ll be engaging with all thrusters, as they say, on those issues.”
Kitzhaber singled out health care, the environment and early childhood and development programs as possible places where he’d like to focus his future efforts.
The former governor did express some regret about resigning in February 2015.
“I’ve had some second thoughts. I mean, who wouldn’t?” he said. “The fact is, I made that decision at a time when the media frenzy around these allegations was spinning up and when a number of prominent members of my own party were asking me to step down.”
“I was becoming the issue,” he continued. “Not the policies that I care about.”
Kitzhaber said he spoke with federal investigators only once for their investigation — about six weeks ago. When pressed, he declined to say what was discussed in that meeting.
When asked, Kitzhaber also declined to discuss whether or not he still felt it was appropriate to have Hayes advising him on issues she was being paid to consult on.
“I just got this news today and I’m not willing to reflect at this point in time,” he said.
Many of the high-ranking state Democrats who called on Kitzhaber to resign in 2015 declined to comment on Friday’s announcement from federal prosecutors.
When asked whether he had heard personally from any of his former colleagues, Kitzhaber replied, “I have not, but I’m not surprised.”