Oregon's embattled governor, John Kitzhaber, said Wednesday he's not resigning following hours of speculation about his future that were touched off when the woman who would succeed him abruptly returned to Oregon from a conference in Washington, D.C.
The Democratic governor has been battling influence-peddling allegations surrounding his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes.
"Let me be as clear as I was last week, that I have no intention of resigning as Governor of the state of Oregon," Kitzaber said in a statement. "I was elected to do a job for the people of this great state and I intend to continue to do so."
It remains unclear why Secretary of State Kate Brown made an early exit from the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting. She's the organization's president.
Newspaper editorial boards have called for Kitzhaber's resignation over allegations that Hayes used the governor's office to land contracts for her consulting business. She's accused of facilitating meetings and advocating policies that she was being paid to promote.
Kitzhaber has denied wrongdoing. He's said he and Hayes worked hard to avoid conflicts between her public and private roles and said a state ethics commission would decide whether they had succeeded.
Hayes has not publicly addressed the allegations.
Kitzhaber was re-elected by a wide margin three months ago. He easily defeated state Rep. Dennis Richardson, who pounded Kitzhaber over the Hayes scandal. Two of Richardson's advisers have taken early steps to begin a recall effort.
A series of newspaper reports since October have chronicled Hayes' work for organizations with an interest in Oregon public policy. During the same period, she worked as an unpaid adviser in the governor's office. The spotlight on Hayes led to her revelation 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 grow marijuana.
"Recent allegations relating to Gov. Kitzhaber and Ms. Hayes are very serious — and troubling," Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. "My office is considering all of our legal options to ensure that we are best serving the state."
Rosenblum has opened a criminal investigation.
Kitzhaber has repeatedly declined to appoint a special prosecutor, saying it's unnecessary.
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 week, Kitzhaber told reporters that he's in love with Hayes, but he's not blinded by it.
Some state leaders from his party have openly criticized him. Others have notably avoided defending him.
"The governor is facing serious challenges and he's hurting," Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney of Salem, a longtime legislator who has worked with Kitzhaber for decades, said recently. "I want to be fair. I want to be compassionate. I want to do my job the best I can. I will not speculate on his future."
© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.