Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



On Wednesday, Oregon will have a new governor. Just who is Kate Brown and what might she bring to the role of governor?

Kate BrownKate Brown has had a slow rise to Oregon's governorship.

She is a native of Minnesota, but obtained her college degree in Colorado.

She earned her law degree from Lewis & Clark College in 1985, the same year John Kitzhaber — whom she will succeed as governor — became Oregon Senate president.

She specialized in family and juvenile law, and she was an advocate for what became the nation’s first family-leave law, which Oregon passed in 1991, two years ahead of the federal law.

That same year, Brown was appointed to an Oregon House seat vacated when Gov. Barbara Roberts appointed Judy Bauman to a state job. But when Roberts was compelled to name someone else to the job, Bauman sought to regain her old seat in the 1992 primary, which Brown won by a final margin of seven votes. (Bauman is now Judy Shiprack, a Multnomah County commissioner.)

Her primary victory was tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic district.

Although she has been married for many years and has two stepchildren, Brown acknowledged early that she is bisexual — and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's leading gay-rights group, and others issued laudatory statements upon Brown's ascension to the governorship.

But Brown has not defined her political career solely on such issues.

After two terms in the House, Brown won an open Oregon Senate seat in 1996. She was one of four new Democratic women in a caucus that had the fewest Democrats (10) since the mid-1950s.

Just two years later in 1998, Brown became their Senate leader — the first woman to hold that position without a co-leader — and Democratic ranks grew by three. Democrats gained one seat in each of the next two election cycles to force a 15-15 tie with Republicans — and Brown was their candidate to become Senate president in 2003.

Brown would have been the first woman in that job, too.

But it was not to be. Some Republicans resisted having the leader of the opposition party as president, so as part of a power-sharing agreement, Peter Courtney of Salem got the presidency instead. He’s held the job ever since.

Under the original plan, Courtney — who was House Democratic leader four times in the 1990s — would have been the Senate Democratic leader to succeed Brown.

With financial support from traditional Democratic-leaning groups such as public-employee unions and trial lawyers, Brown led Democrats to a majority in 2004 when Democrats won three seats vacated by Republicans.

She continued — this time as majority leader — through mid-2007, when she left to prepare for an ultimately successful bid as secretary of state in 2008. She beat two Democratic colleagues in the primary, and won a three-way general election with 51 percent.

What she’s done

In addition to being first in line for succession as governor, the secretary of state performs audits of state agencies — and state supported institutions such as school districts — and oversee elections that are conducted by Oregon's 36 counties.

The office also is in charge of the state's online business portal and business registry, and maintain the state archives.

In her role as chief auditor, Brown hired Gary Blackmer, who spent nearly two decades as auditor for Portland and Multnomah County — and she won passage of a law that requires more follow-up on audits by agencies and lawmakers.

In her role as chief elections officer, Brown instituted online voter registration, introduced iPads and other technologies for voters with disabilities, and has been recognized for supporting the rights of military voters.

But she landed in political crossfires with tougher rules governing initiative-petition signatures and her decision to move the 2012 election for the nonpartisan office of state labor commissioner from the primary to the general.

The first drew sharp criticism from both sides of the political spectrum as discouraging petitioning. Republicans attacked the second as giving an advantage to Democratic incumbent Brad Avakian, but Brown’s move was upheld in court.

Brown won re-election in 2012 with 51 percent in a five-way race. Shortly afterward, she replaced her director of elections.

Her chief priority since then has been legislative approval of automatic voter registration based on electronic transfer of driver information, although new voters can opt out. That plan passed the House in 2013, but died on a tie vote in the Senate, where one Democrat joined 14 Republicans. This session, however, Democrats have larger majorities in both chambers — and the bill just emerged last week from the budget committee.

It could be the first bill Kate Brown signs as governor.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(503) 385-4899 or 363-0888


Position: Oregon's 38th governor as of Wednesday, Feb. 18

Party: Democratic

Age: 54

Home: Portland

Family: Husband, Dan Little; two grown stepchildren

Education: Bachelor's degree in environmental conservation, 1981, University of Colorado; law degree, 1985, Lewis & Clark College; senior executive program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Previous work: Lawyer specializing in family and juvenile law

Public service: Secretary of state since January 2009; Oregon Senate, 1997-2009, Democratic leader, 1998-2007; Oregon House, 1991-97

Go to top
JSN Time 2 is designed by | powered by JSN Sun Framework