Kate Brown

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For other people named Kate Brown, see Katherine Brown.
Kate Brown
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, cropped.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
Born Katherine Brown
(1960-06-21) June 21, 1960 (age 55)
Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Dan Little
Residence Mahonia Hall
Alma mater University of Colorado, Boulder
Lewis and Clark College

Katherine "Kate" Brown (born June 21, 1960) is an American politician who is the 38th and current governor of the U.S. state of Oregon. Brown, a Democrat and an attorney, previously served as Oregon Secretary of State and as majority leader of the Oregon State Senate, where she represented portions of Milwaukie and of Northeast and Southeast Portland.

Brown became governor on February 18, 2015, succeeding John Kitzhaber upon his resignation.[1][2][3] Brown is the state's second female governor, after Barbara Roberts, as well as the first openly bisexual governor in US history and should she win election in 2016 would be the first openly LGBT person elected governor of any U.S. state.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Brown was born in Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, Spain, where her father was serving in the United States Air Force, but was raised in Minnesota. She graduated from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota in 1978.[5] 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.[6]

Oregon Legislative Assembly (1991–2009)[edit]

Brown was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1991, filling a vacancy left by predecessor Judy Bauman, who took an executive appointment.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

Oregon Secretary of State (2009–2015)[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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

In January 2015, Brown submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission in support of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger 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.[15]

Governor of Oregon (2015–present)[edit]

On February 13, 2015, Governor John Kitzhaber announced his pending resignation, amid a public corruption scandal; Brown succeeded him on February 18, 2015 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.[16][17] As her secretary of state, she appointed Jeanne Atkins, who took office on March 11, 2015.[18]

On February 20, 2015, Governor Brown revealed that she was planning to extend the moratorium on executions enacted by her predecessor.[19]

Brown is the second female Governor of Oregon, after Barbara Roberts. Brown is one of three Democratic female governors as of 2015, the other two being Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.


While Secretary of State, Brown was accused of being too friendly with controversial telecommunications company Comcast. She released a letter supporting Comcast that was nearly identical to a letter sent out by Comcast lobbyists to gain support for the Time-Warner/Comcast merger. She also received nearly $10,000 dollars in campaign contributions from Comcast during her runs for office between 2006 and 2012.[20][21]

Brown has also been criticized for her willingness to undermine her colleagues. She was integral in rounding up votes to pass a bill reforming Oregon's Public Employee Retirement System and then voted against the reform bill in order to preserve her own ties to organized labor. Many of her colleagues would go on to lose their seats due to backlash from labor unions.[21]

As Secretary of State, Brown faced further political backlash when she botched 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 to win the race.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Brown lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband Dan Little. She has two stepchildren, Dylan and Jessie. She identifies as bisexual and is the country's first openly bisexual statewide officeholder and first openly bisexual governor.[9][22][23][24]

Awards and distinctions[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. ^ Tim Fought and Jeff Barnard, Associated Press (February 14, 2015). "Scandal makes ex-Minnesotan next governor of Oregon". Star Tribune. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  6. ^ Peter Wong (February 18, 2015). "Calling Kate Brown". Portland Tribune. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Kost, Ryan (July 10, 2007). "Senator joins secretary of state race". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 11, 2007. 
  9. ^ a b Bajko, Matthew S. (November 22, 2007). "Political Notebook: Bisexual, lesbian politicians stump in SF". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved May 15, 2008. 
  10. ^ Kost, Ryan. "Says for every dollar the state spent on audits last year, it delivered $64 in cost savings.". PolitiFact. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Enrolled – House Bill 2005". 75th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY—2009 Regular Session. State of Oregon. June 15, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  12. ^ Foden-Vencil, Kristian. "Online Voter Registration Celebrates First Anniversary". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Selects 24 'Rising Stars' in Governance For Its Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership Program". The Aspen Institute. July 29, 2009. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  14. ^ Wong, Wylie. "How iPads Are Making Voting More Accessible in Oregon". StateTech Magazine. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  15. ^ Woodman, Spencer. "Exclusive: politicians are supporting Comcast's TWC merger with letters ghostwritten by Comcast". The Verge. Retrieved January 26, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Kate Brown chooses next Chief of Staff". KGW.com. February 16, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2015. 
  17. ^ Jaquiss, Nigel (February 16, 2015). "Brian Shipley Will Be Incoming Gov. Kate Brown's Chief of Staff". Willamette Week. Retrieved February 16, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Jeanne Atkins sworn in as Oregon secretary of state". KATU. March 11, 2015. Retrieved March 11, 2015. 
  19. ^ Sebens, Shelby (February 20, 2015). "New Oregon Governor Kate Brown to extend death penalty moratorium". Reuters. 
  20. ^ Slovic, Beth (January 27, 2015). "Kate Brown Draws Heat after Shilling for Comcast". Willamette Week. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  21. ^ a b c Jaquiss, Nigel (February 10, 2015). "Governor in Waiting". Willamette Week. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  22. ^ Walsh, Edward (November 5, 2008). "Democrats sweep to capture statewide jobs". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 5, 2008. 
  23. ^ "Walking Bi". Portland Mercury. Retrieved February 14, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Kate Brown, Oregon, 1992". Out and Elected in the USA – The First 30 Years: 1974–2004. Out History. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  25. ^ a b c "Kate Brown honored by Oregon State Bar". The Oregonian. 
  26. ^ Advocate.com Editors. "Person of the Year: The Finalists". Advocate.com. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Kitzhaber
Governor of Oregon
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Joe Biden
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
Sam Brownback
as Governor of Kansas