Sources say Oregon governor had planned to quit but changed his mind

With an ethics scandal weighing him down, embattled Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber had reached a decision to resign, but he changed his mind, three people with direct knowledge of the situation said.

They said the Democratic governor informed some of his aides on Sunday that he was going to step down, and on Tuesday he asked his would-be successor, Secretary of State Kate Brown, to rush back from a conference in Washington, D.C. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because they were not authorized to talk about private discussions.

Brown's abrupt and unexplained return to Oregon sparked speculation that Kitzhaber planned to quit. Hours later, Kitzhaber issued a statement saying he would stay put. It was not clear why Kitzhaber changed his mind.

"I was elected to do a job for the people of this great state and I intend to continue to do so," Kitzhaber said, repeating a refrain he's uttered at least twice before in the past two weeks.

The governor told KGW that he asked Brown, a Democrat, to return from Washington so he could tell her he was not resigning.

Newspaper editorial boards and Republican political operatives have been criticizing Kitzhaber and calling for him to leave office over allegations that his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, used his office to land contracts for her consulting business. She's accused of advocating policies that she was paid to promote.

Hayes has been under increasing scrutiny since October, when a series of reports chronicled her work for organizations with an interest in Oregon public policy, which came as she served as an unpaid adviser in the governor's office.

The focus led Hayes to reveal that she accepted about $5,000 to illegally marry an immigrant seeking immigration benefits in the 1990s. Later, she acknowledged purchasing a remote property with the intent to illegally grow marijuana.

Kitzhaber, meanwhile, has denied wrongdoing, saying he and Hayes took steps to avoid conflicts of interest. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has launched a criminal investigation.

Kitzhaber was re-elected by a wide margin in November, easily defeating Republican state Rep. Dennis Richardson.

With the scandal surrounding Kitzhaber has overshadowing the state legislative session, which began last week, the governor met separately with legislative leaders on Tuesday.

He told KGW that he wanted to discuss how his presence would affect the legislative agenda.

Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, both Democrats, declined to say what was discussed, but Courtney indicated his was a difficult meeting.

"That was not a 'hi, how are you' meeting," said Courtney, who, like Kitzhaber, is among the state's most enduring political figures. "I'm not smooth today, I'm not cool today. I don't have the nice cookie cutter press release statement today."

A fiercely private person, Kitzhaber has been forced to answer embarrassing and personal questions about his relationship. In response to questions at the news conference last month, Kitzhaber told reporters that he's in love with Hayes, but he's not blinded by it.


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