|Intro||American politician and 38th governor of Oregon|
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||21 June 1960, Torrejón de Ardoz, Community of Madrid, Spain|
|Residence||Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA|
Kate Brown (born June 21, 1960) is an American politician and attorney serving as the 38th governor of Oregon since February 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, she served three terms as the representative from the 13th district of the Oregon House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997, three terms as the 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, and two terms as Secretary of State of Oregon from 2009 to 2015. She became governor of Oregon 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, Spanish State (present-day 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. 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 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.
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.
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.
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; 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.
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. In 2019, after a measles outbreak in Oregon, she urged parents to vaccinate their kids. "Holy smokes, this is basic science," she said.
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 the senators 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 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 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.
Brown has been criticized for ousting a number of high-level public officials. She has also been accused of mismanaging Oregon DHS Child Welfare in audits published in January 2018.
Brown faced an investigation into brokering an agreement — in exchange for campaign contributions — between Nike and unions that withdrew a corporate transparency initiative from the general election ballot in 2018. Nike founder Phil Knight contributed over $1 million to the campaign of her Republican opponent.
Brown's process in appointing Misha Isaak, formerly the governor's general attorney, to the Oregon Court of Appeals in August 2019 caused concern with 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
In 2019, the Oregon Republican Party and an independent group, "Flush Down Kate Brown", attempted to remove Brown by recall petition, but fell 40,790 signatures short of the required 280,050.
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. Both are in circulation. One must collect at least 280,050 signatures to trigger a verification process, the first step toward a recall election.
Brown lives in Mahonia Hall with her husband, Dan Little. She has 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