Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) is in the middle of a surreal and bizarre scandal, and he’s struggling to hold on.
His allies are abandoning him. The state’s top political leaders are calling on him to resign. And he’s seemingly gone into hiding.
“It is with deep sadness that I ask Governor John Kitzhaber to resign his position,” Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler (D) said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the current situation has become untenable, and I cannot imagine any scenario by which things improve.”
Although the controversy has taken multiple twists and turns, the main scandal involves Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, who is the target of a corruption investigation, according
to ABC News. “Hayes is under scrutiny for allegedly using her relationship with Kitzhaber to land contracts for her business as a clean-energy consultant,” the outlet reported. Additionally, his office reportedly ordered the destruction of thousands of his emails.
Perhaps the most bizarre moment of his scandal came Thursday, when Kitzhaber reportedly decided to resign but abruptly changed his mind. Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D), who would succeed him if he stepped down, said Kitzhaber called her and asked her to return to their state from Washington. But then he asked her why she came.
“It was a brief meeting. He asked me why I came back early from Washington, DC, which I found strange. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. The governor told me he was not resigning,” she said in a statement, according to Talking Points Memo. “This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.”
In addition to the state treasurer, the state senate president and house speaker reportedly met privately with Kitzhaber and directly told him it was time to resign.
“He was upset,” the Senate President Peter Courtney (D) said at a press conference to discuss the meeting. “He was defiant. He was struggling.”
The Oregonian reported that Kitzhaber’s “whereabouts were not publicly known” as the calls to resign grew on Thursday, “and he issued no responses.” Reporters staked out his house and his government office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
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