By Peter Galuszka
The two governors couldn’t seem more different.
One is a popular progressive who dressed in an “urban cowboy” style of boots, jeans and down jacket and ran a state as green as a rain forest.
The other favored Joseph A. Banks suits and helmet hair-dos while pushing a “God, Mom and Apple Pie” persona that appealed to Republicans.
Oddly perhaps, especially on Valentine’s Day, women seem to be their downfall. Cherchez la femme?
Until his sudden resignation Friday, John Kitzhaber was into his fourth term as Oregon’s governor and had been highly regarded by liberals nationally for his support of populist ideals and goals involving sustainability. A former emergency physician, he won points for his low key style.
The problem was his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, who lived with him at the governor’s mansion in Salem and acted as the state’s de facto First Lady. She is under investigation for allegedly using her position to win contracts for “green” energy projects she was pushing. As probes grew, Kitzhaber resigned.
Sounds a lot like the case of Robert F. and Maureen McDonnell, the former first family convicted of corruption last September.
In that case, the former First Lady of Virginia (FLOVA in code), was smitten with a fast-talking vitamin producer and salesman and convinced her husband, Bob, to arrange meetings with top state officials to help.
The couple was convicted of a variety of felonies after a six week trial. McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison and his wife is due to be sentenced Feb. 20.
Coincidentally, both governors were high fliers in their respective camps. Kitzhaber represented a particular kind of progressive Oregon way of thinking that is strongly influential throughout national politics and journalism.
McDonnell’s good looks and projection of patriotism went down so well with Republicans that he was once on the short list of 2016 GOP possibilities.
And, both women involved raise issues of what role First Ladies (officially married or not) have in state government. Are they public figures? How much influence should they really have? Are ethics laws tough enough? Do they apply to spouses? Ms. McDonnell’s lawyers suggested that she was being set up to take the fall for her husband as part of a “throw Maureen under the bus” strategy.
Issues like these are certain to come up when Maureen McDonnell appeals her conviction. Similar questions may evolve in the Hayes case as well if she ever faces criminal charges.There are currently no comments highlighted.