|38th Governor of Oregon|
|Assumed office |
February 18, 2015
|Preceded by||John Kitzhaber|
|24th Secretary of State of Oregon|
January 5, 2009 – February 18, 2015
|Preceded by||Bill Bradbury|
|Succeeded by||Jeanne Atkins|
|Member of the Oregon Senate|
from the 21st district
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
November 26, 1991 – January 12, 1997
|Preceded by||Judy Bauman|
|Succeeded by||Dan Gardner|
June 21, 1960
Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain
|Alma mater||University of Colorado Boulder (BA)|
Lewis & Clark College (JD)
Katherine Brown (born June 21, 1960) is an American politician and attorney serving as the 38th governor of Oregon since 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, she served three terms as the state representative from the 13th district of the Oregon House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997, three terms as the state senator from the 21st district of the Oregon Senate from 1997 to 2009, three terms as Majority Leader of the Oregon Senate from 2003 to 2009, as well as two terms as Oregon Secretary of State from 2009 to 2015. She assumed the governorship upon the resignation of John Kitzhaber in 2015. She was elected to serve out the remainder of his gubernatorial term in the special election in 2016 and was reelected to a full term in 2018.
As an openly bisexual woman, Brown has made history several times through her electoral success. In 2008, she became the first openly LGBT person elected secretary of state of a state in the United States. In 2016, she became the first openly LGBT person elected governor of a state in the United States as well as the second woman elected governor of Oregon (after Barbara Roberts).
Early life and education
Brown was born in Torrejón de Ardoz, in Spain, where her father, Dr. James Paterson Brown, an eye doctor, was serving in the United States Air Force, at Torrejon air base. She grew up in Minnesota. She graduated from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota in 1978. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Conservation with a certificate in women's studies from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1981 and a J.D. degree and certificate in environmental law from the Lewis & Clark College Law School in 1985.
Oregon Legislative Assembly
Brown was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1991, filling a vacancy in a Portland seat left by predecessor Judy Bauman, who took an executive appointment. 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 2003, she was elected Majority Leader of the Oregon Senate.
Brown was a top fundraiser for her caucus, helping the Democrats tie the Republicans in the Oregon Senate in 2003. That same year she also won the position of caucus leader. Brown helped round up votes to pass a bill that year reforming the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System, although she ultimately voted against it to preserve her relationship with labor unions.
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 the next year. 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.
Oregon Secretary of State
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.
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.
In 2009 the Aspen Institute named Brown as one of 24 "Rising Stars" in American politics and awarded her 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.
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.
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.
Governor of Oregon
On February 18, 2015, Governor John Kitzhaber resigned amid a public corruption scandal just three months after his reelection; Brown succeeded him since the Constitution of Oregon identifies the secretary of state as the successor when the governor leaves office prematurely.
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. She appointed Jeanne Atkins secretary of state.
Upon taking office, Brown extended the moratorium on executions Kitzhaber had enacted. In 2015, she also signed a "motor voter" bill she had championed while secretary of state, to automatically register voters using their driver's license data. At Politico's "State Solutions" voter engagement conference, Brown said, "Registration is a barrier to people participating in this process" and "Voting is a fundamental right of being a citizen, and people across the country should have the ability to access this fundamental right without barriers like registration". Addressing critics of policies aimed at increasing voter turnout, such as Oregon's "motor voter" law, she said, "I think the good news is, in Oregon, we actually want people to vote in our state."
In July 2016 Brown signed HB3402, which raised the maximum speed limit to 70 MPH on I-82 and sections of I-84 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.
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. 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 Brown named Nik Blosser her third chief of staff after the resignation of former chief of staff Kristen Leonard. In June 2017 Brown signed into law the Oregon Equal Pay Act, which banned employers from using job seekers' prior salaries in hiring decisions.
Brown was reelected in November 2018, defeating Republican 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. She had received 82% in the Democratic primary.
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. On June 20, 2019, Brown authorized state troopers to search for and return 11 Republican state senators after the Oregon Senate ordered the Sergeant-at-Arms to compel them to attend a Senate session. The senators had left to prevent a quorum in the Senate and thereby block the passage of a sweeping climate change bill.
In 2019, after a measles outbreak in Oregon, Brown urged parents to vaccinate their children.
In response to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, Brown has publicly urged Oregonians to stay home to avoid spreading the virus, but was initially criticized for not issuing a shelter-in-place order. The order was officially issued on March 23, 2020.
As secretary of state, Brown faced political backlash over the scheduling of the election for labor commissioner between Democrat Brad Avakian and Republican Bruce Starr. The election for this position is typically held in May, but in 2009 the Oregon legislature passed bipartisan House Bill 2095, which required the election to be held in November 2012. Despite this, Starr accused Brown of pushing the election to November to help Avakian win. Brown called his accusations "unfounded and outrageous", saying her office was simply enforcing a "very clear" law, and that "this is an issue of election law, not politics". Starr filed a lawsuit attempting to force Brown to hold the election in May, but the lawsuit was denied because Starr could not show he was likely to prevail on the merits of his case.
In March 2018, Brown was criticized for firing state librarian MaryKay Dahlgreen, a move that surprised members of the Oregon State Library Board of Directors. She has also been accused of mismanaging Oregon DHS Child Welfare in audits published in January 2018.
In July 2018, Brown brokered meetings between several large Oregon-based companies, including Nike, and union leaders over campaigns to include Initiative Petition 25, a corporate transparency initiative, and Measure 104, geared toward limiting reductions in corporate tax breaks, on the November ballot. Brown's office said her goal was to prevent both initiatives from coming to fruition. She later faced complaints over the alleged brokering of an agreement—supposedly in exchange for financial support through a Nike PAC—in order to keep Petition 25 off the ballot. That year, Nike founder Phil Knight contributed over $1 million to Brown's Republican opponent's campaign, although the company itself gave financial support to Brown. Only a week after the submission of an official complaint, Oregon's Department of Justice found no grounds for an investigation, with the Department's Criminal Justice Division chief council writing, "there is no information that the proponents of [Initiative Petition 25] sought to qualify the petition for the ballot for an improper purpose." Brown and supporters later characterized the complaint as a political ploy. Initiative Petition 25's sponsors ultimately withheld it from the November ballot. Despite having obtained the requisite number of signatures before the submission deadline, union leaders cited an "internal decision", rather than Nike's or Brown's influence, in choosing not to proceed. With Measure 104 and several other anti-tax and anti-labor bills having already secured spaces on the ballot, AFSCME political director Joe Baessler called the issue a "question of resources."
Brown's process in appointing Misha Isaak, formerly her general attorney, to the Oregon Court of Appeals in August 2019 caused concern among members of the State Bar Association. After the Public Records Advocate resigned and released correspondence damaging to Isaak, more people called on Brown to revoke the appointment, including former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Edwin Peterson.
2019 recall attempt
2020 recall attempt
In 2020, Bill Currier, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party and mayor of Adair Village, launched another recall petition. It cited many of the concerns in the 2019 petition in addition to others, mostly focused on her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Oregon. Wilsonville activist Kelsey Massey started another petition. One must collect at least 280,050 signatures to trigger a verification process, the first step toward a recall election. On August 31, Currier announced that the recall would not be on the ballot because it had not received enough signatures. For the Massey petition, no signatures were submitted by the July 31 deadline.
Brown lives in Mahonia Hall. She lives with her husband, Dan Little and two stepchildren, Dylan and Jessie. She is the country's first openly bisexual statewide office holder and first openly bisexual governor.
Oregon State Senate
|Democratic||Kate Brown (Incumbent)||13,541||98.81%|
|Democratic||Kate Brown (Incumbent)||52,278||86.52%|
Oregon Secretary of State
|Democratic||Paul Damian Wells||14,696||2.74%|
|Pacific Green||Seth Alan Woolley||51,271||2.99%|
|Democratic||Kate Brown (Incumbent)||284,470||91.13%|
|Democratic||Paul Damian Wells||26,177||8.39%|
|Democratic||Kate Brown (Incumbent)||863,656||51.28%|
|Pacific Green||Seth Woolley||44,235||2.63%|
|Libertarian||Bruce Alexander Knight||24,273||1.44%|
Governor of Oregon
|Democratic||Kate Brown (Incumbent)||494,890||83.06%|
|Democratic||Kate Brown (Incumbent)||985,027||50.62%|
|Constitution||Aaron Donald Auer||19,400||1.00%|
|Democratic||Kate Brown (Incumbent)||324,541||81.9%|
|Democratic||Kate Brown (Incumbent)||885,232||50.0%|
Awards and distinctions
- 1995 – Recipient, Woman of Achievement Award from the Oregon Commission for Women
- 2004 – Recipient, National Public and Community Service Award from the American Mental Health Counselors Association
- 2007 – Recipient, President's Award of Merit from the Oregon State Bar
- 2015 – Was listed as one of the nine runners-up for The Advocate's Person of the Year
- 2017 – Named to the inaugural NBC Out #Pride30 list
- Profiles in Courage by Basic Rights Oregon
- List of U.S. state governors born outside the United States
- List of female governors in the United States
- List of female secretaries of state in the United States
- List of LGBT people from Portland, Oregon
- List of openly LGBT heads of government
- List of the first LGBT holders of political offices in the United States
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- "Meet America's First Openly Bisexual Governor". MSN. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
- 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 November 15, 2016.
- "Obituary for Dr. James Paterson Brown". Star Tribune.
- Oregonian/OregonLive, Hillary Borrud | The (October 21, 2018). "Kate Brown's experience could help or hurt her chances". oregonlive.
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- Peter Wong (February 18, 2015). "Calling Kate Brown". Portland Tribune. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
- 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.
- Jaquiss, Nigel (February 10, 2015). "Governor in Waiting". Willamette Week. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
- Kost, Ryan (July 10, 2007). "Senator joins secretary of state race". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
- Bajko, Matthew S. (November 22, 2007). "Political Notebook: Bisexual, lesbian politicians stump in SF". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved May 15, 2008.
- Kost, Ryan. "Says for every dollar the state spent on audits last year, it delivered $64 in cost savings". PolitiFact. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
- "Enrolled – House Bill 2005". 75th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY—2009 Regular Session. State of Oregon. June 15, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
- Foden-Vencil, Kristian. "Online Voter Registration Celebrates First Anniversary". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
- "Selects 24 'Rising Stars' in Governance For Its Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership Program". The Aspen Institute. July 29, 2009. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
- Wong, Wylie. "How iPads Are Making Voting More Accessible in Oregon". StateTech Magazine. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
- Woodman, Spencer (January 26, 2015). "Exclusive: politicians are supporting Comcast's TWC merger with letters ghostwritten by Comcast". The Verge. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
- Roth, Sarah (February 16, 2015). "Kate Brown chooses next Chief of Staff". KGW. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
- Jaquiss, Nigel (February 16, 2015). "Brian Shipley Will Be Incoming Gov. Kate Brown's Chief of Staff". Willamette Week. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
- "Jeanne Atkins sworn in as Oregon secretary of state". KATU. March 11, 2015. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
- Sebens, Shelby (February 20, 2015). "New Oregon Governor Kate Brown to extend death penalty moratorium". Reuters. Archived from the original on February 22, 2015.
- Mapes, Jeff (March 16, 2015). "Kate Brown gets to sign her own bill, for automatic voter registration in Oregon". The Oregonian. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
- Marum, Anna (January 9, 2019). "Gov. Kate Brown taps Nik Blosser for new chief of staff". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- Oprysko, Caitlin (February 22, 2019). "Oregon governor calls automatic voter registration a 'phenomenal success". Politico. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
- "OCEP EPIC LEGISLATIVE REPORT | Oregon ACEP". oregonacep.org. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
- 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.
- Selsky, Andrew (May 7, 2016). "Kate Brown expected to win primary; GOP field mixed". KOIN 6 News. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- Jaquiss, Nigel (January 3, 2017). "Kristen Leonard is Out as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's Chief of Staff". Willamette Week. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- Selsky, Andrew (January 4, 2017). "Gov. Brown's chief of staff resigns". The Register-Guard. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- Borrud, Hillary (January 3, 2017). "Two of Kate Brown's staffers resign following conflict of interest questions". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- "Recent Legislation: Oregon Bans Employers from Asking Job Applicants About Prior Salary" (PDF). Harvard Law Review. 131: 1513. 2018..
- Wilson, Reid (December 9, 2018). "New governors plan aggressive climate steps". The Hill. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- Lehman, Chris (June 20, 2019). "Oregon governor sends police to find missing Republicans, bring them to Capitol". The Oregonian. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
- Law, Tara (June 22, 2019). "Oregon Governor Orders State Police to Find Republican State Senators Avoiding a Climate Vote". Time. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
- "Oregon Governor On Measles Outbreak: 'Get Your Children Vaccinated ... Holy Smokes'". OPB. February 1, 2019. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
- Acker, Lizzy (March 22, 2020). "'It's a matter of life or death': Gov. Kate Brown begs Oregonians to stay home as people crowd coast, gorge". The Oregonian. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
- Rogoway, Mike (March 23, 2020). "Oregon governor issues 'stay home' order to enforce coronavirus restrictions". The Oregonian. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
- "Tracking House Bill 2095 in the Oregon Legislature". Your Government :: The Oregonian. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
- Cooper, Jonathan L. (March 21, 2012). "Lawsuit filed over labor commissioner election". Albany Democrat-Herald. p. 1. Retrieved May 12, 2021 – via newspapers.com.
- Mapes, Jeff (March 22, 2012). "Oregon judge denies attempt by Bruce Starr to hold labor commissioner's election in May". The Oregonian. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
- Harbarger, Molly (March 15, 2018). "Kate Brown ousts respected Oregon state librarian". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- Bach, Jonathan (January 31, 2018). "Oregon DHS child welfare audit says staff endured 'bullying, intimidation' by agency leaders". Statesman Journal. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- Manning, Rob (January 31, 2018). "Audit Finds Wealth Of Problems With Oregon's Child Welfare Office". OPB. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- "Child welfare audit is much more than 'just politics': Editorial". The Oregonian. February 11, 2018. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- Borrud, Hillary (February 1, 2018). "Audit faults top administrators for Oregon's chronic child welfare failures". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- Dake, Lauren (April 16, 2019). "Advocacy Group Alleges Oregon's Foster Care System 'Revictimizes Children'". OPB. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
- Zimmerman, Sarah (April 16, 2019). "Lawsuit: Oregon DHS failed to prevent abuse in foster care system". Statesman Journal. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
- "Oregon child welfare agency under fire". The Lewiston Tribune. Associated Press. April 13, 2019. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
- Borrud, Hillary (September 7, 2018). "Phil Knight's contributions to Knute Buehler now reportedly total $1.5 million". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
- Borrud, Hillary (August 8, 2018). "Oregon DOJ declines to investigate Kate Brown's deal with Nike, unions". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
- Borrud, Hillary (August 1, 2018). "Complaint: Kate Brown's initiative deal with Nike, unions was illegal". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 2, 2020.
- Jaquiss, Nigel (August 30, 2019). "Gov. Kate Brown Names Her General Counsel to the Oregon Court of Appeals". Willamette Week. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
- Borrud, Hillary (September 11, 2019). "Former Oregon lawmaker files bar complaint against Gov. Kate Brown's top lawyer over public records pressure". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
- Jaquiss, Nigel (September 13, 2019). "Retired Chief Justice of Oregon Supreme Court Says Gov. Kate Brown Should Revoke Misha Isaak's Appointment to the Oregon Court of Appeals". Willamette Week. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
- VanderHart, Dirk (October 14, 2019). "2 Efforts To Recall Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Have Failed". OPB.
- VanderHart, Dirk (May 29, 2020). "Oregon Republicans Will Once Again Try To Recall Gov. Kate Brown". OPB. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
- Brookbank, J.D. (June 4, 2020). "Oregon Republicans Start Another Recall Effort Against Gov. Brown". The Corvallis Advocate.
- "Kate Brown recall, Governor of Oregon". Ballotpedia. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
- Walsh, Edward (November 5, 2008). "Democrats sweep to capture statewide jobs". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
- "Walking Bi". Portland Mercury. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- "Kate Brown, Oregon, 1992". Out and Elected in the USA – The First 30 Years: 1974–2004. Out History. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- "November 8, 2016, General Election Abstract of Votes". Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
- "Kate Brown honored by Oregon State Bar". The Oregonian.
- "SOPride | Grand Marshal Page". www.sopride.org. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
- "Person of the Year: The Finalists". The Advocate. November 5, 2015. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- 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.
- Brad Schmidt, "Kate Brown: Next Oregon Governor Described as Tenacious, Personable," The Oregonian, February 13, 2015.
- Governor of Oregon official government website
- Kate Brown for Governor official campaign website
- Kate Brown at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN