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What Happens In Oregon When A Governor Resigns?

Democratic leaders called on Gov. John Kitzhaber, a fellow Democrat, to step down from his office Thursday, putting increasing pressure on him to resign.

Kitzhaber and his fiancee Cylvia Hayes have been under scrutiny in recent months for allegedly using their governmental positions to secure contracts for Hayes' private consulting firm, 3E Strategies.

Here are the answers to a few basic questions of what would happen if Kitzhaber does decide to step down.

How does the state determine succession?

The order of succession for the Oregon governor’s office is outlined in Article V, Section 8a. of the state Constitution. It says that if the governor is removed from office by resignation, death or any other reason, the secretary of state is next in line. In this case, that means Kate Brown would take over as governor.

If Brown was unable to fill the governor’s seat, state Treasurer Ted Wheeler would become the governor. Beyond that, the Constitution lists the Senate President (Sen. Peter Courtney) and Speaker of the House (Rep. Tina Kotek) as the next options for succession.

Would the new governor serve the remainder of the term?

No. State law allows the appointed person to serve until the next general biennial election. In this case, that would be in 2016.

What happens to the appointed person’s position?

If Brown or any other Oregon government official takes the office of the governor, that person selects an acting official to take her or his office. That acting official then serves until a new governor is elected.

Acting officials aren’t eligible for succession, however.

Has a governor ever been forced out office in Oregon?

While four governors have resigned from the office since Oregon became a state, no one holding the highest office in the state has been forced out because of scandal.

In 1877, La Fayette Grover was the first Oregon governor to resign. He stepped down from the office when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Gov. George Chamberlain followed the same path in 1909.

Chamberlain’s successor, Frank Benson, was one of Oregon’s shortest serving governors. Benson had a significant amount of power in the state because he held onto his job as secretary of state at the same time he was governor. But that power did little for him because he was too ill to serve more than a year as governor.

Gov. Douglas J. McKay had a similar story to Grover and Chamberlain, pursuing higher office. He left Oregon after World War II to serve as President Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of interior.

<p>Article 5 Section 8a of the <a href="http://bluebook.state.or.us/state/constitution/const2011.pdf">Oregon Constitution</a>.</p>

Article 5 Section 8a of the Oregon Constitution.

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ryan Haas has been with Oregon Public Broadcasting since 2013. His work has won numerous awards, including two National Magazine Award nominations for the podcast "Bundyville." Prior to working at OPB, Haas worked at newspapers in Illinois, Florida, Oregon and the Caribbean.