Oregon is abuzz with speculation that Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber will resign amid a scandal that has engulfed his administration over the past four months, according to several local and national news reports.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown abruptly flew back to Oregon from D.C., where she was attending a conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Brown is the president of the organization and was originally scheduled to return to Oregon on Friday.
Kitzhaber has been hammered by news investigations that revealed numerous instances of influence-peddling involving green energy companies and his fiancé. The Oregonian called on Kitzhaber to resign last week, and the governor has kept out of the public spotlight since a disastrous press conference.
Kitzhaber’s office has not rebutted the speculation, but his personal lawyer Jim McDermott said Wednesday that he expects Kitzhaber to stay in office.
"I have every reason to believe the governor will stay in office," McDermott told the Oregonian. "As a citizen and his lawyer, I certainly hope and expect he will be staying in office.
The Oregon Ethics Commission is conducting an investigation of Kitzhaber and his fiancé, but that might be put on hold pending a criminal investigation by the state attorney general.
Oregon Republicans are already laying the groundwork for a recall effort, should Kitzhaber remain in office. Two former campaign staffers for failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson have formed a PAC, Oregonians for Public Integrity, to spearhead the effort.
"If Kitzhaber resigns it will go against everything I know about Kitzhaber," Jacob Daniels, Richardson’s former campaign attorney, said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon. "But we’re prepared to run a recall effort if he doesn’t."
"There’s going to be a huge cloud of doubt over the government until this guy steps down," Daniels continued. "The story has become about him and his ethical dilemmas, and you can’t have that be the whole story in Salem, where people are elected to represent the people."