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New US governor sworn in; predecessor resigns in scandal

February 19, 2015

SALEM, Oregon (AP) — America’s first openly bisexual governor was sworn in Wednesday in the northwestern state of Oregon, following an influence-peddling scandal that prompted the resignation of a fellow Democrat, who had been the state’s longest-serving chief executive before his swift fall from grace.

Kate Brown assumed Oregon’s highest office during a ceremony at the state Capitol.

In a speech to the Legislature after her swearing-in, Oregon’s former the secretary of state praised John Kitzhaber for his contributions but also said “we must restore the public’s trust.”

Kitzhaber’s fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, faces allegations that she used her relationship to enrich herself.

Kitzhaber, who didn’t attend the inauguration, has denied wrongdoing and has consistently maintained that he and Hayes worked hard to avoid conflicts between her public and private roles. He did not immediately respond to an email asking why he’d decided to commute Dao’s sentence.

Brown, 54, was born in Spain, raised in the U.S. and came to Oregon to attend law school in Portland, the state’s largest city, and established a family law practice before her first run for the Legislature.

Kitzhaber handily won re-election in November to an unprecedented fourth term, a rare feat in American politics.

The spotlight on Hayes led to her revealing that she accepted about $5,000 to illegally marry a man seeking immigration benefits in the 1990s. Later, she acknowledged purchasing a remote property with the intent to grow marijuana.

Though questions about Hayes have swirled for months, the pressure on Kitzhaber intensified recently after newspapers raised questions about whether Hayes reported all her income on her tax returns. She has not publicly addressed the allegation and Kitzhaber has declined to.

Both state and federal officials have launched investigations.

Brown addressed the scandal at her swearing in, saying “Oregon has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons. That changes starting today.”

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