Just in case this was Kitzhaber’s last day as Governor, I took a picture of the front page. And indeed, by 12:15pm he had announced his resignation, though it won’t take effect for a few days.
Though I think the Oregonian spent an excessive amount of time covering the things that were being uncovered, I place the blame fully on Kitzhaber. For the past few weeks, whenever I unfurled or logged on to the paper and saw the day’s new headline a line from the song “I wanna get better” by the Bleachers would pop into my head:
…I was losing my mind,
because the love,
that I gave.
Wasted. On a nice face…
In his resignation letter Kitzhauber wrote: “I must also say that 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. But even more troubling — and on a very personal level as someone who has given 35 years of public service to Oregon — is that so many of my former allies in common cause have been willing to simply accept this judgment at its face value.”
And that struck me as a the biggest F-you to the media and his colleagues I’ve seen in years. But the fact of the matter remains that John Kitzhaber has been in politics for 35 years. He is (or should be) familiar with the ethics guidelines that govern representatives of our state. He chose to be in a relationship with a woman who seems to have not followed those guidelines, he chose to refer to her as first lady, and he decided that what she was doing was okay.
It’s never good for a politician to be investigated by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, the State Attorney General, and a Federal grand jury investigation. And with every question asked of Cylvia Hayes’ role Kitzhaber has minimized evidence that has been presented.
This scandal put me, a single working female professional woman in a long-term unmarried relationship, (Cyliva Hayes is all of those things too) in the uncomfortable position of thinking things like “why doesn’t he just marry her already?” and various other ridiculous thoughts that left me feeling like I was betraying the sisterhood. But the governor can’t have it both ways. Is she the first lady, doing deals and making contacts as the first lady? Fine. Is she a professional woman, head of her own company that benefits from her knowledge of and access too political contacts? Fine. But they needed to be very clear which hat she was wearing at which time. And they weren’t.
Is she a member of his household, even if they are not married? Fine. But to say that the first lady is just a ceremonial role when questions come up about contracts and other dealings with Hayes’ company is false. And, frankly, ridiculous. If there was a firm line drawn by either the governor or Cyliva Hayes then we wouldn’t be swearing in a new governor next week. But there weren’t and while Kitzhaber seems to have acted above board for his 35+ year career, the woman he has associated himself with for the last ten has raised an incredible amount of red flags.
And just because they aren’t married doesn’t mean we don’t get to say, “Not good choices, Governor Kitzhaber. Please go.”
I sat through four wasted years of a neutered Sam Adams as mayor of Portland after his scandal. I don’t need to sit through four years of an ineffective governor. The state’s got too much to do.
I wish Kitzhaber a good life, with or without Cylvia Hayes by his side. I personally would suggest without, but I guess he knows her better than I do.