Kate Brown

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Kate Brown
Kate Brown.jpg
Governor of Oregon
In office
Term ends
Years in position 0
PredecessorJohn Kitzhaber (D)
Majority Leader, Oregon State Senate
Base salary$98,600
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 6, 2012
Campaign $$3,791,767
AppointedFebruary 18, 2015
Term limits8 years in a 12 year period
Prior offices
Oregon Secretary of State
Oregon State Senate
Oregon House of Representatives
Bachelor'sUniversity of Colorado at Boulder (1981)
J.D.Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College (1985)
Date of birthJune 21, 1960
Place of birthTorrejón de Ardoth, Spain
Office website
Personal website
Campaign website
Kate Brown (born June 21, 1960, in Torrejón de Ardoth, Spain) is the current Democratic Governor of Oregon. She first assumed office on February 18, 2015, replacing John Kitzhaber (D) following his resignation due to an ethics scandal.[1] Brown is the first openly bisexual governor in the nation's history.[2] The next election for the governor's office will take place in November 2016 for the remaining two years of Kitzhaber's elected term. Brown will be eligible for election during the 2016 special election.[3] Learn more about this story by jumping down to the political career section.

Brown served as the Oregon Secretary of State from 2009 until assuming the governor's office in February 2015. She was first elected to the position of secretary of state on November 4, 2008, becoming the highest ranking openly bisexual elected official in the country.[4] She won re-election on November 6, 2012.[5]

Brown previously served in the Oregon State Legislature from 1991 through 2009. In 2004 she became the first female to serve as Senate Majority Leader in Oregon.[6]


Brown was born in a suburb of Madrid, Torrejón de Ardoth (or Ardoz), which makes her one of a small number of state executive officials to have been born outside of the country. See how Kate Brown and Oregon's other state executives compare to their peers across the country: State executive officials serving in home states.

Although she was born in Spain, Kate Brown spent most of her childhood in Minnesota. She attended University of Colorado for her bachelor's degree and moved to her adopted state of Oregon for law school at Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College. After graduating from law school, she went on to practice family and juvenile law while at the same time teaching college students at Portland State University. She continues to practice as an attorney with the Juvenile Rights Project, a non-profit organization based in Portland that provides legal services to children and families.

Brown was working as an advocate for the Women's Rights Coalition when she was appointed to a vacant position in the Oregon House in 1991.[7]


  • B.A., Environmental conservation, University of Colorado at Boulder (1981)
  • J.D., Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College (1985)


  • Women of Achievement Award (1995) from the Oregon Commission for Women[8]
  • National Public and Community Service Award (2004) from the American Mental Health Counselors Association[9]
  • President's Award of Merit (2007) from Oregon State Bar[10]
  • Profiles in Courage Award from Basic Rights Oregon[10]
  • Legislator of the Year Award from the Oregon Psychological Association[10]
  • Outstanding Achievement Award from the Oregon Family Support Network[11]

Political career

Governor of Oregon (2015-present)

See also: Filling vacancies in Oregon

Since Oregon does not have a lieutenant governor, Brown was first in line to succeed the office of governor upon the governor becoming unable to perform the duties of the office. This resulted in Brown becoming the 38th governor of Oregon upon Kitzhaber's resignation, effective February 18, 2015. She is the 37th person to serve as governor, as Kitzhaber served in the 1990s and early-2000s before being re-elected to the position in 2011.[12]


"Motor voter" bill

On March 5, 2015, the Oregon State Legislature passed a bill allowing election officials to register voters using driver's license data. The "motor voter" bill was supported by Brown during her time as secretary of state and would register 300,000 state residents using their license information. State officials will send postcards to affected residents offering the opportunity to refuse participation in the program.[13]

The bill, which failed to pass the legislature in 2013, was passed in 2015 without any Republican votes. State Sen. Betsy Johnson (D) was the lone Democratic legislator to vote against the bill. Opponents to the bill were critical of potential invasions of privacy as personal data used for licenses could be leaked when voter registration lists are publicly available. Supporters of the bill highlighted safeguards for private information and suggested that the bill would help young voters avoid registration snarls due to frequent moves.[13]

Inaugural address

Brown was sworn into office on the floor of the Oregon House of Representatives on February 18, 2015. Here is the text of her inaugural address:

Governors Roberts and Kulongoski, tribal leaders, Speaker Kotek, President Courtney, honored colleagues, good morning.

As I take the oath of office this morning, I am blessed to have the support of a large and wonderful family, many of whom are here. I want to specially thank two people who've had great influence on my life: my mother, Sally, and my spouse, Dan Little, who is my rock.

It's been a tough few months. The people of Oregon have had reason to question their trust in state government. Oregon has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons.

That changes starting today. It's time for use to get back to work. It's time to move Oregon forward.

This great state is blessed with so many amazing qualities: breath-taking natural wonders, a resilient people and an unmatched quality of life. People born here want to stay here, and people are drawn here from all over the country. We are all fiercely proud to be Oregonians.

Before I sought public office, I worked as a family law advocate. There, I witnessed first-hand the problems of people whose lives were dramatically impacted by the law, but who seldom had an impact on shaping it - the child who needs a more stable home; the survivor of domestic violence;' the family struggling to make ends meet.

I carry with me their faces and stories every day when I come to work.

And throughout my 24 years in public service, I have also sought to promote transparency and trust in government, working to build confidence that our public dollars are spent wisely.

As Governor, this will not change.

I will be a Governor who wants to hear the concerns of everyday Oregonians - children and working parents, small business owners and senior citizens.

In the public dialogue about resources and priorities, they will be my central focus.

It is with everyday Oregonians in mind that I take office today with enthusiasm and purpose. The legislature is in session; the budget has been submitted and more than 1,700 bills have been filed. Speaker Kotek, President Courtney, members of the legislature, on behalf of all Oregonians, thank you for your dedication and perseverance throughout this recent ordeal.

There is a great deal of work ahead of us, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it.

We are all keenly aware of the difficult circumstances that brought us to this moment - circumstances that none of us would have predicted only a short time ago.

Governor Kitzhaber dedicated most of his life to serving the people of Oregon. His contributions to our state are well woven into the fabric of our public life.

But now, we must restore the public's trust.

I know that every Representative and Senator in this chamber loves Oregon as much as I do. And as I am sure you agree, in order for us to move forward, the first order of business is to regain the confidence of the people.

There are several things we can do, and one of them starts right now.

I pledge to you today that for as long as I am your Governor, I will not seek or accept any outside compensation, from any source. And I pledge further that while I am Governor, the members of my household and the members of my staff will not seek or accept any outside compensation, from any source, for any work related to the business of the State of Oregon. That simply will not happen.

Beyond that, we must seize this moment to work across party lines to restore the public's trust. That means passing meaningful legislation that strengthens the capacity and independence of the Government Ethics Commission. We also must strengthen laws to ensure timely release of public documents.

We should not leave here without getting this done.

We must work together to address these and other real problems in real time; to strengthen Oregon's recovery from the recession; to improve access to quality education and health care, and create more living-wage jobs in every single corner of the state.

Although as individuals we may have our differences, one thing connects us -- we are all Oregonians. We are innovators, seekers, doers. Even our state motto, "She flies with her own wings," underscores the extraordinary Oregon spirit that unites us and characterizes us as a people.

It is time once again to set our sights on Oregon's future, to stretch our wings towards new horizons. Today is nearly half gone; tomorrow awaits, full of promise. Now it's time to get to work.

Thank you. [14]

The Oregonian, (2015) [15]

Secretary of State (2009-2015)

Brown was first elected to the secretary of state's office in November 2008 and won re-election in November 2012. She served in office until February 18, 2015, when she assumed the governor's office.

In 2012, Brown was the target of a lawsuit involving a moved election date, in which the plaintiff claimed that political motives had led the Secretary of State's office to interfere in the scheduling of an election. The suit failed but the controversy continued and is detailed below under 2012 candidate vs. Brown.

Kitzhaber resignation

John Kitzhaber 2013.jpg

Resignation of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

Term in office: 1995-2003, 2011-2015

Next in succession:
Secretary of State Kate Brown (D)

Related pages
Resignation overview
February 11 story
February 13 story
Impeachment amendment
Recall effort
Cylvia Hayes
Kate Brown
Ellen Rosenblum
Governor of Oregon
Vacancy process

Flag of Oregon.png
See also: Resignation of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

Brown cut short a trip to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 11, 2015, fueling speculation that Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) would resign amid an ethics investigation involving his fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, and whether she used her proximity to the governor's mansion to advance her own business interests.[16][17] Kitzhaber ultimately announced his resignation two days later, noting it would be effective as of February 18, 2015.[18]

Because Oregon does not have a lieutenant governor, Brown was next in line to succeed the governor if he were to step down prior to the end of his term. Brown spokesperson Tony Green did not elaborate on why Brown was returning from D.C. two days early, leaving the conference for the National Association of Secretaries of State, an organization for which she serves as president. Green simply stated, "She is coming back to Oregon. It is a change in plans."[17][16]

The New York Times pointed out that, while voters in the deep-blue state chose to re-elect Kitzhaber in November 2014 - though whispers of a scandal involving Hayes were growing louder - their decision to do so may have been motivated by politics more so than any strong allegiance to the four-term Democrat:[19]

And unlike last November, when voting against Mr. Kitzhaber would mean electing a Republican, Democrats can now contemplate a change in chief executive without such a risk. Under the Oregon Constitution, the secretary of state, Kate Brown, would take office should the governor not complete his four-year term. And many Democrats are quick to say how much they like her.[14]

The New York Times

Kitzhaber's decision to resign made him just the fifth Oregon governor to do so. Because gubernatorial resignations are so rare in the Beaver State, even Brown's office, which oversees elections, was unsure how exactly it would play out. When asked what is involved in the resignation process, Green, said, "Honestly, I don't think any of us know. ... Article V, Section 8 of the state constitution is the sum total of my knowledge."[20]

According to Article V, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution:[21]

In case of the removal from office of the Governor, or of his death, resignation, or disability to discharge the duties of his office as prescribed by law, the Secretary of State; or if there be none, or in case of his removal from office, death, resignation, or disability to discharge the duties of his office as prescribed by law, then the State Treasurer; or if there be none, or in case of his removal from office, death, resignation, or disability to discharge the duties of his office as prescribed by law, then the President of the Senate; or if there be none, or in case of his removal from office, death, resignation, or disability to discharge the duties of his office as prescribed by law, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall become Governor until the disability be removed, or a Governor be elected at the next general biennial election. The Governor elected to fill the vacancy shall hold office for the unexpired term of the outgoing Governor. The Secretary of State or the State Treasurer shall appoint a person to fill his office until the election of a Governor, at which time the office so filled by appointment shall be filled by election; or, in the event of a disability of the Governor, to be Acting Secretary of State or Acting State Treasurer until the disability be removed. The person so appointed shall not be eligible to succeed to the office of Governor by automatic succession under this section during the term of his appointment.[14]

Late in the day on February 11, Kitzhaber reinforced what his attorney had stated earlier in the day - that he had no intention of resigning, despite "getting a lot of pressure from many quarters" to do so. Kitzhaber maintained that Brown returned from her D.C. trip prematurely because he wanted to discuss his decision with her in person. "We met privately today, and I told her again my intention was not to resign. But she is, after all, the vice president. She's next in line and any decision to resign would obviously affect her, but I have, as I said today again, no intention of resigning the job I was elected to do," Kitzhaber said.[22]

Comments on Kitzhaber resignation rumors

On February 12, Brown issued a statement regarding the rumors from the previous day that Kitzhaber would resign from office:

Late Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from the Governor while I was in Washington, DC at a Secretaries of State conference. He asked me to come back to Oregon as soon as possible to speak with him in person and alone.

I got on a plane yesterday morning and arrived at 3:40 in the afternoon. I was escorted directly into a meeting with the Governor. It was a brief meeting. He asked me why I came back early from Washington, DC, which I found strange. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. The Governor told me he was not resigning, after which, he began a discussion about transition.

This is clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation.

I informed the Governor that I am ready, and my staff will be ready, should he resign. Right now I am focused on doing my job for the people of Oregon. [14]

The Oregonian, (2015) [23]


Secretary of State Project
See also: Secretary of State Project

The Center for Public Integrity reported in September 2008 that Kate Brown not only received the endorsement, but also substantial financial assistance (nearly $65,000) from the Secretary of State Project, a below-the-radar 527 political organization whose stated purpose is "wrestling control of the country from the Republican Party" through the process of "removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count," namely the office of Secretary of State in many cases.[24][25]

2012 candidate vs. Brown
See also: Oregon secretary of state's election date snafu still unresolved despite judge's ruling

In her role as Secretary of State, Brown found herself in a controversy during the 2012 election cycle due to an altered election date. The race for Commissioner of Labor and Industries was moved from May to November, something Republican candidate Bruce Starr said he was not made aware of until 10 days after the filing deadline. In March 2012, Bruce Starr, a Republican candidate for commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries in the 2012 election, filed a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court against Brown for allegedly failing to inform all parties involved in the race of the correct election date. Apparently, both of the candidates in the race had been operating under the false assumption that the election was to be held in May, when it was in fact scheduled to coincide with the other statewide office elections in November. The Secretary of State office's website, which Brown oversees, listed Starr and his opponent as candidates in the May primary. The plaintiff, Starr, claimed he learned of the change only because one of his campaign staffers made a routine call to the Elections Division, and the incumbent, Brad Avakian, found out in similar fashion. When he discovered he had the wrong date, Starr accused Brown of moving the date to improve the incumbent's chances out of party favoritism. He demanded the decision to push the election to November be reversed and that the election proceed in May, "when a Republican presidential primary should help GOP candidates." Starr filed suit against Brown, seeking to prevent the date change.[26][27]

Brown responded by citing a bill passed by the 2009 Legislature that addresses the matter of the election cycle of the office in question, saying the terms are "clearly stated" and the accusations are "outrageous" despite the legitimate confusion reported by both campaigns about the date. Starr's request was denied but Brown's handling of the matter continued to stoke controversy throughout the race.[26]

Oregon State Senate (2002-2008)

She was elected to the Oregon State Senate, representing the 21st Congressional District, in 2003. In 2004, Kate Brown was elected State Senate Majority Leader, a role she occupied until 2009 when she became Secretary of State.[7]

Oregon House of Representatives (1990-1996)

Kate Brown was first appointed to fill a vacant seat in the Oregon House of Representatives representing the 13th Congressional District in 1991. She was subsequently elected to the seat, which he held until 1997.[7]



See also: Oregon secretary of state election, 2012

Brown successfully defended her post in the 2012 election. She defeated Paul Damian Wells in the Democratic primary election on May 15, 2012 and later triumphed over Knute Buehler (R), Seth Woolley (Pacific Green Party), Bruce Alexander Knight (Libertarian), and Robert Wolfe (Progressive) in the general election on November 6, 2012.[28][29]

Oregon Secretary of State General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngKate Brown Incumbent 51.4% 863,656
     Republican Knute Buehler 43.3% 727,607
     Green Seth Woolley 2.6% 44,235
     Libertarian Bruce Alexander Knight 1.4% 24,273
     Progressive Robert Wolfe 1.3% 21,783
Total Votes 1,681,554
Election Results via Oregon Secretary of State.

Brown won the 2012 Democratic primary, easily overcoming one challenger.[30]

Oregon Secretary of State Democratic Primary, 2012
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngKate Brown 91.1% 277,052
Paul Damian Wells 8.4% 25,568
Write-ins 0.5% 1,400
Total Votes 304,020
Election Results via OregonLive 2012 Primary Results.


  • Voter-ID

According to a report published on August 29th in The Oregonian Brown is strongly opposed to enacting voter-ID laws which would require voters to verify their identities by presenting a government issued photo ID in order for their votes to count. "I stand and Oregon stands in contrast to what's happening across the country in the war on voting." Brown insists that the integrity is maintained by a reliable system of signature matching and Oregon's centralized voter registration database.[31]

  • Campaign spending

In mid-September, Brown announced that she is placing a $1 million spending cap on her re-election campaign this year. Her opponent, Knute Buehler, who has reportedy raised nearly $1 million and spent about $542,000 so far this election season, said he would not follow suit, and suggested that Brown's adoption of a spending limit is her reaction to concerns about trailing Buehler in fundraising (Brown has raised $575,000 and spent about $264,000 as of September 19th) and recently firing her campaign finance manager. Brown denied his accusations, saying that she has hired a replacement and defending the ethical merits of setting a spending limit. "I've raised more than $1 million in the past.... It's not fun and it's also not right. That's why I think it's time for us to do something about it and I'm the one in this race leading by example."[32]


Click "show" to expand a list of Kate Brown's 2012 endorsements.

Money in the race

The top ten donors to Brown's campaign were as follows:[34]

Donor Amount
Citizen Action for Political Education $25,000.00
Democratic Association of Secretaries of State $15,000.00
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians $10,000.00
Oregon AFSCME Council 75 $10,000.00
Oregon Education Association-People for Improvement of Education (142) $10,000.00
Local Electricians PAC (4572) $10,000.00
EMILY's List Federal Fund $5,000.00
Plumbers and Steamfitters PAC (221) $5,000.00
Local Electricians PAC (4572) $5,000.00
Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund $5,000.00


On November 4, 2008, Kate Brown won election to the office of Oregon Secretary of State. She defeated Rick Dancer (R) and Seth Alan Woolley (PG) in the general election.

Oregon Secretary of State, 2008
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngKate Brown 51% 873,968
     Republican Rick Dancer 45.8% 785,740
     Pacific Green Seth Alan Woolley 3% 51,271
     Misc. Various 0.2% 2,740
Total Votes 1,713,719
Election Results Via: Oregon Secretary of State

2008 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[35]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Kate Brown 51.7%
     Democratic Party Rick Metsger 27.2%
     Democratic Party Vicki L. Walker 18.0%
     Democratic Party Paul D. Wells 2.7%
     Write-In 0.4%
Total Votes 537,046

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Brown is available dating back to 1992. Based on available campaign finance records, Brown raised a total of $3,791,767 during that time period. This information was last updated on May 18, 2013.[36]

Kate Brown's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 OR Secretary of State Won $1,498,794
2010 OR Secretary of State Not up for election $20,997
2008 OR Secretary of State Won $1,196,410
2006 OR State Senate Not up for election $175,571
2004 OR State Senate Won $607,462
2000 OR State Senate Won $181,473
1996 OR State Senate Won $18,228
1994 OR State Senate Won $43,284
1992 OR State Senate Won $49,548
Grand Total Raised $3,791,767


Brown won re-election to the position of Oregon Secretary of State in 2012. During that election cycle, Brown raised a total of $1,498,794.


Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Kate Brown's donors each year.[37] Click [show] for more information.


Kate Brown currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Dan, and her two stepchildren, Dylan and Jessie.[38]

Recent news

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See also

External links

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  1. The Oregonian, "Live updates: Kate Brown becomes Oregon governor," February 18, 2015
  2. Political Wire, "Oregon Will Have First Openly Bisexual Governor," February 13, 2014
  3. The Atlantic, "America's First Openly Bisexual Governor," February 13, 2015
  4. Victory Fund, "Kate Brown," accessed May 16, 2012
  5. Oregon Live, "2012 General Election Results," November 7, 2012
  6. Century of Action, "Interviews - Kate Brown," February 14, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 The Oregonian, "Secretary of State Brown defends record; challenger Buehler seeks to be first successful statewide GOP candidate in a decade," October 15, 2012
  8. Oregon Commission for Women, "Women of Achievement Hall of Fame," accessed May 21, 2014
  9. Project Vote Smart, "Kate Brown's Biography," accessed May 21, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 The Oregonian, "Kate Brown honored by Oregon State Bar," December 5, 2007
  11. Southern Oregon Pride Festival, "2012 Grand Marshals," accessed May 21, 2014
  12. Daily Emerald, "Kitzhaber announces resignation, will be replaced by Kate Brown," February 13, 2015
  13. 13.0 13.1 The Oregonian, "Sweeping "New Motor Voter" bill clears Oregon Legislature on partisan vote," March 5, 2015
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  15. The Oregonian, "Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's inaugural speech," February 18, 2015
  16. 16.0 16.1 OregonLive, "Secretary of State Kate Brown cutting D.C. trip short to return to Oregon," February 11, 2015
  17. 17.0 17.1 KGW.com, "Questions swirl about Kitzhaber's future as Kate Brown abruptly flies home," February 11, 2015
  18. OregonLive.com, "Governor John Kitzhaber announces his resignation," February 13, 2015
  19. The New York Times, "Oregon Bedfellows Make for Strange Politics," February 11, 2015
  20. OregonLive.com, "Governor resignations so rare in Oregon, secretary of state unsure how one would proceed," February 11, 2015
  21. Oregon State Legislature, "Constitution of Oregon," accessed March 30, 2014
  22. USA Today, "Oregon governor says he won't step down," February 12, 2015
  23. The Oregonian, "Secretary of State Kate Brown describes John Kitzhaber's actions Wednesday as 'clearly a bizarre and unprecedented situation'," February 12, 2015
  24. Center for Public Integrity: Paper Trial Blog, "Election '08: Scoring Secretary of State Seats for Dems" 8 Sept. 2008
  25. American Spectator, "SOS in Minnesota" 7 Nov. 2008
  26. 26.0 26.1 Oregon Live, "See you in November?," March 20, 2012
  27. Oregon Live, "Why the Oregon labor commissioner election controversy won't die," April 5, 2012
  28. Oregon Live, "2012 General Election Results," November 7, 2012
  29. Oregon Secretary of State, "Voter Guide," accessed October 18, 2012
  30. Oregon Live, "Oregon 2012 Primary Results," May 16, 2012
  31. The Oregonian, "Oregon's the safe harbor from voter-ID mania," August 29, 2012
  32. The Oregonian, "Oregon Secretary of State candidates trade tough words over campaign spending limits," September 19, 2012
  33. Kate Brown for Oregon, "Endorsements," accessed October 1, 2012
  34. Oregon Secretary of State, "Campaign Finance Reports-Kate Brown," accessed September 29, 2012
  35. Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division - 2008 Primary Election Results
  36. Follow the Money, " Career fundraising for Kate Brown," accessed May 18, 2013
  37. Follow the Money.org, "Home," accessed February 17, 2015
  38. Washington Blade, "Gay man seeks to become Delaware’s next insurance commissioner," accessed September 5, 2012
Political offices
Preceded by
John Kitzhaber (D)
Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Bill Bradbury (D)
Oregon Secretary of State
2009 - 2015
Succeeded by
Robert Taylor