Kate Brown

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Kate Brown
Kate Brown in 2017.jpg
38th Governor of Oregon
Assumed office
February 18, 2015
Preceded by John Kitzhaber
24th Secretary of State of Oregon
In office
January 5, 2009 – February 18, 2015
Governor Ted Kulongoski
John Kitzhaber
Preceded by Bill Bradbury
Succeeded by Jeanne Atkins
Member of the Oregon Senate
from the 21st district
In office
January 13, 1997 – January 2, 2009
Preceded by Shirley Gold
Succeeded by Diane Rosenbaum
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 13th district
In office
November 26, 1991 – January 12, 1997
Preceded by Judy Bauman
Succeeded by Dan Gardner
Personal details
Katherine Brown

(1960-06-21) June 21, 1960 (age 58)
Torrejón de Ardoz, Community of Madrid, Spain

Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Dan Little
Education University of Colorado, Boulder (BA)
Lewis and Clark College (JD)
Website Government website

Katherine Brown (born June 21, 1960) is a Spanish-born American attorney and politician who is the 38th and current governor of Oregon. A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served in the Oregon House of Representatives (1991–1997), in the Oregon State Senate representing portions of Milwaukie and Portland (1997–2009, majority leader 2004–2009), and as Oregon Secretary of State (2009–2015).

Brown became governor in February 2015 following the resignation of John Kitzhaber;[1][2][3] she won the special election the following year, and was reelected in 2018. She is the state’s second elected female governor (after Barbara Roberts in 1990) and the first openly bisexual governor in the U.S.[4][5]

Early life and career[edit]

Brown was born in Torrejón de Ardoz, Community of Madrid, Spain, where her father was serving in the United States Air Force, and grew up in Minnesota. She graduated from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota in 1978.[6] She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Conservation with a certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1981 and a J.D. degree and certificate in Environmental Law from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College in 1985.[7]

Oregon Legislative Assembly[edit]

Brown in 2008

Brown was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1991, filling a vacancy left by predecessor Judy Bauman, who took an executive appointment.[8] She was elected to a second term before being elected to the Oregon State Senate in 1996. Two years later, she was elected Senate Democratic Leader; in 2004, senators made her the first woman to serve as Oregon’s Senate Majority Leader.

In July 2007, Brown announced that she would give up her seat in the Oregon Senate to be a candidate for Oregon Secretary of State in 2008.[9] On May 20, 2008, Brown won the election for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State, and on November 5 she won the general election by a 51–46% margin against Republican candidate Rick Dancer.[10]

Oregon Secretary of State[edit]

Coming into office, one of Brown’s priorities was to perform rigorous performance audits to help balance the budget. In 2008, for every dollar the State spent, performance audits returned $8 in cost savings. In 2010, Brown reported she delivered $64 in cost savings and efficiencies for every dollar invested in the Division.[11]

In 2009, Brown introduced and passed House Bill 2005 to crack down on fraud and abuse in the initiative and referendum system. It gave the Secretary of State more power to prosecute fraud and enforce the constitutional ban on paying per signature on initiatives.[12]

Brown accepting an award from the Oregon National Guard, June 2014

Brown also implemented online voter registration. As of March 2010, a year after its introduction, Oregon Public Broadcasting noted nearly 87,000 Oregonians had already registered online to vote.[13]

In 2009, the Aspen Institute named Brown as one of 24 “Rising Stars” in American politics and awarded her with a Rodel Fellowship. The program is a two-year fellowship designed to break down partisan barriers and explore the responsibilities of public leadership and good governance.[14]

In October 2012, StateTech magazine highlighted Brown’s use of iPad and tablet technology to increase accessibility for voters with disabilities. In 2011, Oregon became the first jurisdiction in the country to use this technology to help voters with disabilities mark their ballots.[15]

In January 2015, Brown submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the purchase of Time Warner Cable by Comcast that had been almost entirely ghostwritten by Comcast, a company that has made a total of over $10,000 in donations to her past election campaigns.[16]

Governor of Oregon[edit]

On February 13, 2015, Governor John Kitzhaber announced his pending resignation, amid a public corruption scandal; Brown succeeded him on February 18, since the Oregon Constitution identifies the secretary of state as the successor when the governor leaves office prematurely.[3]

Brown named Brian Shipley, a lobbyist for Oregon Health & Science University and former deputy chief of staff to Governor Ted Kulongoski, as her chief of staff.[17][18] As her secretary of state, she appointed Jeanne Atkins.[19]

Upon taking office, Brown announced that she would extend the moratorium on executions her predecessor had enacted.[20] She also signed a “motor voter” bill she had championed while secretary of state, to automatically register voters using their driver’s license data.[21][22]

In July 2016, Brown signed HB3402, which raised the maximum speed limit to 70 MPH on sections of I-84 east and US-95. Previously the maximum allowed speed limit allowed on Oregon highways was 65. This bill also raised speed limits on non-interstate highways in eastern Oregon from 55 to 65.[23]

Oregon law required a special election in November 2016 for the two years remaining in Kitzhaber’s unfinished term as governor. By April 2016, Brown had raised over $800,000 for her campaign in 2016 alone, while her closest Democratic primary competitor, Julian Bell, had raised $33,000. She defeated Bell, Chet Chance, Kevin M. Forsythe, Steve Johnson, and Dave Stauffer for the Democratic nomination.[24][25] She won the general election against Republican Party nominee Bud Pierce, Independent Party nominee Cliff Thomason, Libertarian Party nominee James Foster, and Constitution Party nominee Aaron Donald Auer, receiving 51% of the vote.

In January 2017, she named Nik Blosser[26] as her third chief of staff following the resignation of former chief of staff Kristen Leonard.[27][28]

Brown announced in November 2017 she would run for her first full term as governor the following year.[29] She was reelected in November 2018, defeating Knute Buehler 50.0% to 43.9%, with Independent Party nominee Patrick Starnes, Libertarian Party nominee Nick Chen, Constitution Party nominee Aaron Auer, and Progressive Party nominee Chris Henry taking the remaining votes.

In a November 2018 budget plan, Brown proposed a 30-year plan to limit Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions via a “cap-and-trade” system.[30]


Brown was integral in rounding up votes to pass a bill in 2003 reforming Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System and then voted against the reform bill in order to preserve her ties to organized labor. Many of her colleagues went on to lose their seats due to backlash from labor unions.[31]

As Secretary of State, Brown faced further political backlash when she said she had made a mistake in the scheduling of the election for Labor Commissioner between Democrat Brad Avakian and Republican Bruce Starr. An early election would have favored Starr, but as the election approached, Brown changed her mind and scheduled the election for November, helping Avakian win the race.[31]

Brown has been criticized for ousting a number of high-level public officials.[32]

She has been accused of mismanaging Oregon DHS Child Welfare in an audit published in January 2018.[33][34][35][36]

Brown faced an investigation into brokering an agreement – for campaign contributions – between Nike and unions that withdrew a corporate transparency initiative from the general election ballot in 2018.[37] Nike founder Phil Knight has contributed over $1 million to the campaign of her Republican opponent.[38]

Personal life[edit]

Brown lives in Mahonia Hall with her husband, Dan Little. She has two stepchildren, Dylan and Jessie. She is bisexual and is the country’s first openly bisexual statewide officeholder and first openly bisexual governor.[10][39][40][41]

Electoral history[edit]

Oregon’s State Senate 21st District Democratic Primary Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 13,541 98.81%
write-ins 163 1.19%
Total votes 13,704 100%
Oregon’s State Senate 21st District Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 52,278 86.52%
Libertarian Theresa Reed 4,563 7.55%
Constitution (Oregon) Paul deParrie 3,126 5.17%
write-ins 455 0.75%
Total votes 60,422 100%
Oregon Secretary of State Democratic Primary Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown 277,853 51.74%
Democratic Rick Metsger 145,820 27.15%
Democratic Vicki Walker 96,835 18.03%
Democratic Paul Damian Wells 14,696 2.74%
write-ins 1,842 0.34%
Total votes 537,046 100%
Oregon Secretary of State Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown 873,968 51.00%
Republican Rick Dancer 785,740 45.85%
Pacific Green Seth Alan Woolley 51,271 2.99%
write-ins 2,740 0.16%
Total votes 1,713,719 100%
Oregon Secretary of State Democratic Primary Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 284,470 91.13%
Democratic Paul Damian Wells 26,177 8.39%
write-ins 1,510 0.48%
Total votes 312,157 100%
Oregon Secretary of State Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 863,656 51.28%
Republican Knute Buehler 727,607 43.20%
Pacific Green Seth Woolley 44,235 2.63%
Libertarian Bruce Alexander Knight 24,273 1.44%
Progressive Robert Wolfe 21,783 1.29%
write-ins 2,561 0.15%
Total votes 1,684,115 100%
Oregon Gubernatorial Special Democratic Primary Election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 494,890 83.06%
Democratic Julian Bell 49,113 8.24%
Democratic Dave Stauffer 16,108 2.70%
Democratic Steve Johnson 13,363 2.24%
Democratic Kevin Forsythe 10,147 1.70%
Democratic Chet Chance 5,636 0.95%
write-ins 6,595 1.11%
Total votes 595,852 100%
Oregon Gubernatorial Special Election, 2016 [42]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 985,027 50.62%
Republican Bud Pierce 845,609 43.45%
Independent Cliff Thomason 47,481 2.44%
Libertarian James Foster 45,191 2.32%
Constitution Aaron Donald Auer 19,400 1.00%
write-ins 3,338 0.17%
Total votes 1,946,046 100%
Oregon Gubernatorial Democratic Primary Election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 324,541 81.9%
Democratic Ed Jones 33,464 8.4%
Democratic Candace Neville 29,110 7.4%
write-ins 8,912 2.3%
Total votes 396,027 100%
Oregon Gubernatorial Election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 885,232 50.0%
Republican Knute Buehler 776,558 43.9%
Independent Patrick Starnes 50,879 2.9%
Libertarian Nick Chen 26,587 1.5%
Constitution Aaron Auer 19,645 1.1%
Progressive Chris Henry 10,252 0.6%
Total votes 1,769,153 100.0%

Awards and distinctions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “Kate Brown Sworn In as Oregon Governor, Replacing John Kitzhaber”. The New York Times. February 18, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  2. ^ “Kate Brown Becomes Governor”. The Oregonian. February 18, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  3. ^ a b “Gov. John Kitzhaber Announces His Resignation”. Willamette Week. February 13, 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  4. ^ “Meet America’s First Openly Bisexual Governor”. MSN. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  5. ^ Helena Horton (September 9, 2016). “People are celebrating women who made history on US Election night in response to Donald Trump win”. The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  6. ^ Tim Fought and Jeff Barnard, Associated Press (February 14, 2015). “Scandal makes ex-Minnesotan next governor of Oregon”. Star Tribune. Archived from the original on February 18, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  7. ^ Peter Wong (February 18, 2015). “Calling Kate Brown”. Portland Tribune. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  8. ^ Schwarz, Hunter (February 13, 2015). “This woman will soon become the first openly bisexual governor in American history”. The Washington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  9. ^ Kost, Ryan (July 10, 2007). “Senator joins secretary of state race”. The Oregonian. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  10. ^ a b Bajko, Matthew S. (November 22, 2007). “Political Notebook: Bisexual, lesbian politicians stump in SF”. Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved May 15, 2008.
  11. ^ Kost, Ryan. “Says for every dollar the state spent on audits last year, it delivered $64 in cost savings”. PolitiFact. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  12. ^ “Enrolled – House Bill 2005”. 75th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY—2009 Regular Session. State of Oregon. June 15, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  13. ^ Foden-Vencil, Kristian. “Online Voter Registration Celebrates First Anniversary”. Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  14. ^ “Selects 24 ‘Rising Stars’ in Governance For Its Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership Program”. The Aspen Institute. July 29, 2009. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  15. ^ Wong, Wylie. “How iPads Are Making Voting More Accessible in Oregon”. StateTech Magazine. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  16. ^ Woodman, Spencer. “Exclusive: politicians are supporting Comcast’s TWC merger with letters ghostwritten by Comcast”. The Verge. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  17. ^ “Kate Brown chooses next Chief of Staff”. KGW.com. February 16, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  18. ^ Jaquiss, Nigel (February 16, 2015). “Brian Shipley Will Be Incoming Gov. Kate Brown’s Chief of Staff”. Willamette Week. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  19. ^ “Jeanne Atkins sworn in as Oregon secretary of state”. KATU. March 11, 2015. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  20. ^ Sebens, Shelby (February 20, 2015). “New Oregon Governor Kate Brown to extend death penalty moratorium”. Reuters.
  21. ^ “Kate Brown gets to sign her own bill, for automatic voter registration in Oregon”. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  22. ^ “Gov. Kate Brown taps Nik Blosser for new chief of staff”. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  23. ^ “OCEP EPIC LEGISLATIVE REPORT | Oregon ACEP”. oregonacep.org. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  24. ^ Kullgren, Ian (March 9, 2016). “Election 2016: Who’s running for office in Oregon? Portland? We’ve got your list right here”. The Oregonian. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  25. ^ Selsky, Andrew (May 7, 2016). “Kate Brown expected to win primary; GOP field mixed”. KOIN 6 News. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  26. ^ “Kristen Leonard is Out as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s Chief of Staff”. Willamette Week. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  27. ^ “Gov. Brown’s chief of staff resigns | City Region | Eugene, Oregon”. projects.registerguard.com. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  28. ^ “Two of Kate Brown’s staffers resign following conflict of interest questions”. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  29. ^ Brown, Kate (November 14, 2017). “Re-elect Kate Brown For Governor of Oregon”. Facebook. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  30. ^ Wilson, Reid (9 December 2018). “New governors plan aggressive climate steps”. The Hill. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  31. ^ a b Jaquiss, Nigel (February 10, 2015). “Governor in Waiting”. Willamette Week. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  32. ^ “Kate Brown ousts respected Oregon state librarian”. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  33. ^ “Oregon DHS child welfare audit says staff endured ‘bullying, intimidation’ by agency leaders”. Statesman Journal. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  34. ^ Manning, Rob. “Audit Finds Wealth Of Problems With Oregon’s Child Welfare Office”. www.opb.org. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  35. ^ “Child welfare audit is much more than ‘just politics’: Editorial”. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  36. ^ “Audit faults top administrators for Oregon’s chronic child welfare failures”. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  37. ^ Borrud, Hillary (August 8, 2018). “Oregon DOJ declines to investigate Kate Brown’s deal with Nike, unions”. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  38. ^ Borrud, Hillary (September 7, 2018). “Phil Knight’s contributions to Knute Buehler now reportedly total $1.5 million”. OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  39. ^ Walsh, Edward (November 5, 2008). “Democrats sweep to capture statewide jobs”. The Oregonian. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  40. ^ “Walking Bi”. Portland Mercury. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  41. ^ “Kate Brown, Oregon, 1992”. Out and Elected in the USA – The First 30 Years: 1974–2004. Out History. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  42. ^ “November 8, 2016, General Election Abstract of Votes” (PDF). Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  43. ^ a b c “Kate Brown honored by Oregon State Bar”. The Oregonian.
  44. ^ “SOPride | Grand Marshal Page”. www.sopride.org. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  45. ^ Advocate.com Editors. “Person of the Year: The Finalists”. Advocate.com. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  46. ^ O’Hara, Mary Emily (June 23, 2017). “#Pride30: Oregon’s Kate Brown Embraces Status as First LGBTQ Elected Governor”. NBC News. Retrieved July 10, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Bradbury
Democratic nominee for Secretary of State of Oregon
2008, 2012
Succeeded by
Brad Avakian
Preceded by
John Kitzhaber
Democratic nominee for Governor of Oregon
2016, 2018
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Bradbury
Secretary of State of Oregon
Succeeded by
Jeanne Atkins
Preceded by
John Kitzhaber
Governor of Oregon
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Oregon
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Paul Ryan
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mark Dayton
as Governor of Minnesota
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Oregon
Succeeded by
Jeff Colyer
as Governor of Kansas