Governor of Oregon

The Governor of Oregon is the head of the executive branch of Oregon's state government and serves as the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The title of governor was also applied to the office of Oregon's chief executive during the provisional and U.S. territorial governments.

The current governor of Oregon is Kate Brown, a Democrat who took office following the resignation of Governor John Kitzhaber amid an ethics scandal. The Governor's current salary was set by the 2001 Oregon Legislature at $93,600 annually.[1]

Governor of the State of Oregon
Seal of Oregon
Kate Brown in 2017
Kate Brown

since February 18, 2015
StyleThe Honorable
ResidenceMahonia Hall
Term lengthFour years, limited to 2 consecutive terms with no limit on total number of terms
Inaugural holderJohn Whiteaker
FormationFebruary 14, 1859 (Constitution of Oregon)
Salary$93,600 (2013)[1]

Constitutional descriptions

Article V of the Oregon State Constitution sets up the legal framework of the Oregon Executive Branch.[2]



Article V, Section 1 states that the governor must be a natural born U.S. citizen, at least 30 years of age, and a resident of Oregon for at least three years before the candidate's election. Section 2 extends ineligibility as follows:

No member of Congress, or person holding any office under the United States, or under this State, or under any other power, shall fill the Office of Governor, except as may be otherwise provided in this Constitution.[2]

Elections and terms of office

The ceremonial Governor's Office in the Oregon State Capitol

Sections 4-7 of Article V outline the formal gubernatorial election procedures such as publishing the winner, ties, disputed elections, and terms of office.

Governors are elected by popular ballot and serve terms of four years, limited to two consecutive terms in office, with no limit on the number of total terms.[2]

The formal process of certification of results of a gubernatorial election ends when the Secretary of State delivers the results to the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. The Speaker then will publish the results to a joint session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly.

Where an election results in a tie, a joint session of the next legislative session will vote on the two candidates, and declare the winner governor. Legally contested elections are also decided by the full legislature in whichever manner other laws may prescribe.

Line of succession

The gubernatorial line of succession was modified in 1920, 1946, and 1972.[2][4] The current list is designated as Article V, Section 8a. It defines who may become or act as the Governor of Oregon upon the incapacity, death, resignation, or removal from office of a sitting governor. The new governor (or acting governor) will serve out the remainder of the previous governor's or incapacitated governor's term. A special gubernatorial election is required, if there's more than two years remaining in the previous governor's or incapacitated governor's term. Unlike many states, Oregon does not have a Lieutenant Governor (though in 2007, legislation was proposed to establish such an office.)[5] The current order is:

Position Current office holder Political party
1 Secretary of State Vacant
2 State Treasurer Tobias Read Democratic
3 President of the Senate Peter Courtney Democratic
4 Speaker of the House Tina Kotek Democratic

Transition events

Four governors have died in office, and four governors have resigned.

  • After La Fayette Grover resigned in 1877 to become a United States Senator, Secretary of State Stephen F. Chadwick took office; he completed Grover's term and did not seek re-election.
  • After George Chamberlain resigned in 1909 to become a United States Senator, Secretary of State Frank W. Benson took office.
  • After Benson fell ill in 1910, he transferred his powers to President of the Senate Jay Bowerman, who was sworn in as Acting Governor[6]. Bowerman then became governor upon Benson's resignation, and was defeated in the 1910 gubernatorial election.
  • After the death of James Withycombe in 1919,[7] Secretary of State Ben W. Olcott took office; he completed Withycombe's term and was defeated in the 1922 general election.
  • After the death of Isaac L. Patterson in 1929, President of the Senate A. W. Norblad took office; he completed Patterson's term and was defeated in the 1930 Republican primary.
  • After the death of Earl Snell in 1947, Speaker of the House John H. Hall took office; he lost a special election in 1948 and did not complete the term.
  • After Douglas McKay resigned in 1952 to become United States Secretary of the Interior, President of the Senate Paul L. Patterson took office; he completed McKay's term and was elected in his own right in 1954.
  • After Patterson's death in 1956, President of the Senate Elmo Smith took office; he lost a special election later that year and did not complete the term.
  • After John Kitzhaber resigned in 2015 amid a growing ethics scandal, Secretary of State Kate Brown took office; she won a special election in 2016 and was re-elected in 2018.

State military forces

The governor is the commander-in-chief of the Oregon Military Department. Power is granted to the governor to mobilize and deploy state military forces.


The power to grant pardons and reprieves and to commute sentences is granted to the governor, with limitations placed upon cases of treason. Additionally, the governor can remit fines and forfeitures. Any use of these powers, however, must be reported to the legislature.

In treason cases, the governor may only grant reprieves. The final matter of pardons, commuting of sentencing, or further reprieves is referred to the legislature in these cases.


The governor has the power to veto legislation, which can be overridden by a two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature, and can veto particular items from an appropriations or emergency bill while leaving others intact (see line item veto).

If needed, the governor may convene a special session of the legislature by proclamation and is empowered to call for special elections to fill vacant seats. Between the vacancy and special election, the governor is able to appoint a replacement.

Annually, the governor addresses the legislature in his or her State of the State address. In this speech the governor outlines the current conditions of the state, and makes recommendations to the assembly as to what the government's priorities ought to be.


If the legislature is out of session, the governor may appoint replacements to fill state offices until elections are held or the legislature reconvenes (see recess appointment).

Official residence

Mahonia Hall in Salem is the official governor's mansion.[8] The house was built in 1924 for hops grower Thomas A. Livesley. It was named Mahonia Hall after citizens raised funds in 1988 to purchase it as Oregon's first official governors' mansion.[9]

Before the purchase of Mahonia Hall, whatever house the governor rented became the "Governor's mansion".[10] Governors Atiyeh and McCall lived in the 1929 Stiff-Jarman House, an English cottage-style (also characterized as Arts and Crafts style)[11] residence currently located in the North Capitol Mall Historic Redevelopment area.[12][13] After the end of Atiyeh's term, the Stiff-Jarman House became the headquarters of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.[11] Today the building houses rented offices.[12]

Provisional government (1843–1849)

Meetings at Champoeg led up to the first constitution of the Oregon Country, and a petition for U.S. territorial status. The resulting acts also created this body as a provisional government for the region. The first executives of this government were a three-person, elected committee known as the Executive Committee. In 1845, elections for a chief executive were held. The first person in Oregon to hold the title of governor was George Abernethy, a prominent businessman.[14]

Gubernatorial data

Note: These facts apply only to persons who have held the governorship under Oregon statehood.


See also


  1. ^ a b "CSG Releases 2013 Governor Salaries". The Council of State Governments. June 25, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "Constitution of Oregon: Article V, Executive Department". Oregon Blue Book. Oregon State Archives. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Temporary governor eliminated: Measure modifies line of succession". The Bend Bulletin.
  5. ^ "Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to create elective office of Lieutenant Governor". Oregon State Legislature. Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  6. ^ "Governor Frank W. Benson" (PDF). Oregon State Archives. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  7. ^ a b "James Withycombe". Oregon State Library. Archived from the original on 2006-09-23. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  8. ^ "Architecture". State of Oregon Highway - Geo-Environmental Section. Archived from the original on 2007-05-06. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  9. ^ "Livesley House/Mahonia Hall, Salem, Oregon 1992". Oregon Historic Photograph Collections, Salem Public Library. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
  10. ^ Oregon Historic Photograph Collections
  11. ^ a b Oregon Historic Photograph Collections
  12. ^ a b Oregon Department of Administrative Services, New State Owned Office Space Available
  13. ^ North Mall Office Building, Department of Administrative Services, Sustainable State Facilities Guidelines Policy, Pilot Project Report
  14. ^ "George Abernethy". Oregon State Library. Archived from the original on 2006-09-23. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  15. ^ "Notable Oregonians: Oswald West - Governor". Oregon Blue Book. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  16. ^ "Albin Walter Norblad". Oregon State Library. Archived from the original on 2004-11-26. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  17. ^ Tim Fought and Jeff Barnard, Associated Press (February 14, 2015). "Scandal makes ex-Minnesotan next governor of Oregon". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on February 18, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
1982 Oregon gubernatorial election

The 1982 Oregon gubernatorial election took place on November 2, 1982. Republican incumbent Victor Atiyeh defeated Democratic state senator Ted Kulongoski to win re-election and carrying every county in the state. As of 2019, this is the most recent election in which a Republican was elected Governor of Oregon.

2006 Oregon gubernatorial election

The 2006 Oregon gubernatorial election took place on November 7, 2006. Incumbent Democratic Governor of Oregon Ted Kulongoski ran for a second and final term as governor. Kulongoski faced several challengers in his primary, whom he dispatched to win his party's nomination a second time, while Republican nominee Ron Saxton, the former Chair of the Portland Public Schools Board and a candidate for governor in 2002 emerged from a crowded primary. Kulongoski and Saxton were initially going to be challenged in the general election by State Senator Ben Westlund, but Westlund withdrew his candidacy before the general election. There were, however, a number of strong independent challengers, the most notable of whom was Mary Starrett, the Constitution Party nominee. In a hard-fought campaign, Kulongoski won re-election by a surprisingly wide margin, winning his second term as governor.

2010 Oregon gubernatorial election

The Oregon gubernatorial election of 2010 was held on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 to elect the Governor of Oregon, who will serve a four-year term to begin on January 10, 2011. The incumbent governor, Democrat Ted Kulongoski, was ineligible to run due to term limits barring him from being elected to more than two consecutive terms.

The Democratic candidate John Kitzhaber, who had previously served two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003, was elected to a third term, earning a narrow victory over Republican candidate Chris Dudley and two minor party candidates. Kitzhaber's election marked the first time in Oregon's history that a person has been elected to a third term as governor.

Almost every opinion poll throughout the election season showed a statistical tie between the two. State Republicans saw this election as the best chance to win the governorship since the last Republican governor, Victor Atiyeh, was re-elected in 1982. Once polls closed on election day, Dudley had led in early vote counts, but Kitzhaber's wide margins in Multnomah and Lane counties eventually erased Dudley's lead.Oregon first used its new cross nomination system, a form of fusion voting, in the 2010 general elections. In this system, a candidate for partisan public office can be nominated by up to three political parties.

Kitzhaber was nominated by the Independent Party of Oregon in addition to the Democratic Party.

Douglas McKay

James Douglas McKay (June 24, 1893 – July 22, 1959) was an American businessman and politician from the U.S. state of Oregon. He served in World War I before going into business, where he was most successful as a car dealership owner in Salem. A Republican, he served as a city councilor and mayor of Salem before election to the Oregon State Senate. McKay served four terms in the state senate, also fought in World War II, and was then elected as the twenty-fifth governor of Oregon in 1948. He left that office before the end of his term when he was selected as the thirty-fifth U.S. Secretary of the Interior during the Eisenhower administration.

George Earle Chamberlain

George Earle Chamberlain Sr. (January 1, 1854 – July 9, 1928) was an American attorney, politician, and public official in Oregon. A native of Mississippi and member of the Democratic Party, Chamberlain's political achievements included appointment followed by election as the first Attorney General of Oregon, a stint as the state's 11th Governor, and two terms in the United States Senate in Washington, DC.

George W. Joseph State Natural Area

George W. Joseph State Natural Area is a natural area in the U.S. state of Oregon. It is located near the city of Troutdale between Latourell Falls and Guy W. Talbot State Park, and is accessible from both.

The land was donated by the estate of George W. Joseph, a state senator and an influential nominee for Governor of Oregon in 1930.

James Withycombe

James Withycombe (March 21, 1854 – March 3, 1919) was an American Republican politician who served as the 15th Governor of Oregon.

Joseph Lane

Joseph "Joe" Lane (December 14, 1801 – April 19, 1881) was an American politician and soldier. He was a state legislator representing Evansville, Indiana, and then served in the Mexican–American War, becoming a general. President James K. Polk appointed Lane as the first Governor of Oregon Territory. When Oregon was admitted as a state in 1859, Lane was elected one of Oregon's first two U.S. Senators.

In the United States presidential election, 1860, Lane was nominated for vice president of the pro-slavery Southern wing of the Democratic Party, as John C. Breckinridge's running mate. Lane's pro-slavery views and sympathy for the Confederate States of America in the Civil War effectively ended his political career in Oregon.

One of his sons was later elected U.S. Representative, and a grandson U.S. Senator, making Lane the patriarch of one of the state's most prominent political families.

Julius Meier

Julius L. Meier (December 31, 1874 – July 14, 1937) was an American businessman, civic leader, and politician in the state of Oregon. The son of the Meier & Frank department store founder, he would become a lawyer before entering the family business in Portland. Politically an independent, Meier served a single term as the 20th Governor of Oregon from 1931–1935. He is the only independent to be elected Governor of Oregon.

Kate Brown

Katherine Brown (born June 21, 1960) is an American attorney and politician who is the 38th governor of Oregon. A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served in the Oregon House of Representatives, in the Oregon State Senate, and as Oregon Secretary of State. She became governor in February 2015 following the resignation of John Kitzhaber, won the special election the following year, and was reelected in 2018. Brown is the first openly bisexual governor in the United States, the first openly LGBT person elected governor in the United States, and the second female governor of Oregon after Barbara Roberts.

List of Governors of Oregon

This article lists the individuals who have served as Governor of Oregon from the establishment of the Provisional Government between 1841 and 1843 to the present day.

Neil Goldschmidt

Neil Edward Goldschmidt (born June 16, 1940) is a Jewish-American businessman and Democratic politician from the state of Oregon who held local, state and federal offices over three decades. After serving as the governor of Oregon, Goldschmidt was once considered the most influential figure in the state's politics. His legacy and career were severely damaged by revelations that he had a sexual relationship with a young teenage girl during his first term as mayor of Portland.Goldschmidt was elected to the Portland City Council in 1970 and then as mayor of Portland in 1972, becoming the youngest mayor of any major American city. He promoted the revitalization of Downtown Portland and was influential on Portland-area transportation policy, particularly with the abandonment of the Mount Hood Freeway and the establishment of the MAX Light Rail. He was appointed U.S. Secretary of Transportation by President Jimmy Carter in 1979; in that capacity he worked to revive the ailing automobile industry and to deregulate several industries. He served until the end of Carter's presidency in 1981 and then served as a senior executive with Nike for several years.

He was elected the 33rd governor of Oregon in 1986, serving a single term. He faced significant challenges, particularly a rising anti-tax movement (leading to Measure 5 in 1990) and a doubling of the state's prison population. He worked across party lines to reduce regulation and to repair the state's infrastructure. During his term, Oregon emerged from nearly eight years of recession. His reforms to the State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF), a state-chartered worker's compensation insurance company were heralded at the time, but drew strong criticism in later years.

Despite his popularity, Goldschmidt left office after only one term, becoming an influential and controversial lobbyist. Over the next dozen years or so, he was criticized by editorial boards and Oregonians for several of the causes he supported, including backing the forestry corporation Weyerhaeuser in its hostile takeover of Oregon's Willamette Industries and his advocacy for a private investment firm in its attempt to take over Portland General Electric, a local utility company. In 2003, Governor Ted Kulongoski appointed him to the Oregon Board of Higher Education, a position he resigned after admitting he had a sexual relationship with a minor girl 30 years earlier.

Oregon Air National Guard

The Oregon Air National Guard (OR ANG) is the aerial militia of the U.S. state of Oregon. Along with the Oregon Army National Guard, it is an element of the Oregon National Guard.

As state militia units, the units in the Oregon Air National Guard are not in the normal United States Air Force chain of command. They are under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Oregon though the office of the Oregon Adjutant General unless they are federalized by order of the President of the United States. The Oregon Air National Guard is headquartered at the Oregon Military Department buildings in Salem.

Oregon Army National Guard

The Oregon Army National Guard is a federally mandated and equipped military organization under the civilian direction of the Oregon Military Department, with the Governor of Oregon as its Commander-in-Chief. It responds to state and national emergencies, military conflicts and natural disasters, and conducts search and rescue operations. While the history of the militia dates back to the establishment of the first Oregon militia in 1843 the present Guard was not established until after 1903. The modern Guard includes citizen soldiers, and its motto is "When we are needed, we are there."

The Oregon Army National Guard consists of 41 armories in 33 communities.

Oregon Secretary of State

The Secretary of State of Oregon, an elected constitutional officer within the executive branch of government of the U.S. state of Oregon, is first in line of succession to the Governor. The duties of office are: auditor of public accounts, chief elections officer, and administrator of public records. Additionally, the Secretary of State serves on the Oregon State Land Board and chairs the Oregon Sustainability Board. Following every United States Census, if the Oregon Legislative Assembly cannot come to agreement over changes to legislative redistricting, the duty falls to the Secretary of State.

The most recent Secretary of State was Republican Dennis Richardson, who was administered the oath of office on December 30, 2016, and formally took office on January 2, 2017. He died on February 26, 2019, thus leaving the position vacant.

Oswald West

Oswald West (May 20, 1873 – August 22, 1960) was an American politician, a Democrat, who served most notably as the 14th Governor of Oregon.

He was called "Os West" by Oregon writer Stewart Holbrook, who described him as "by all odds the most brilliant governor Oregon ever had."

Robert W. Straub

Robert William "Bob" Straub (May 6, 1920 – November 27, 2002) was an American politician and businessman from the state of Oregon. A native of California, he settled in Eugene, Oregon, where he entered politics. A Democratic politician, he served in the Oregon State Senate, as the Oregon State Treasurer, and one term as the 31st Governor of Oregon from 1975 to 1979. Like his perennial opponent for governor, Tom McCall, he was a noted environmentalist.

Sylvester Pennoyer

Sylvester Pennoyer (July 6, 1831 – May 30, 1902) was an American educator, attorney, and politician in Oregon. He was born in Groton, New York, attended Harvard Law School, and moved to Oregon at age 25. A Democrat, he served two terms as the eighth Governor of Oregon from 1886 to 1895. He joined the Populist cause in the early 1890s and became the second Populist Party state governor in history. He was noted for his political radicalism, his opposition to the conservative Bourbon Democracy of President Grover Cleveland, his support for labor unions, and his opposition to the Chinese in Oregon. He was also noted for his prickly attitude toward both U.S. Presidents whose terms overlapped his own -- Benjamin Harrison and Cleveland, whom he once famously told via telegram to mind his own business.

He later served as mayor of Portland from 1896 to 1898.

Victor Atiyeh

Victor George "Vic" Atiyeh (; February 20, 1923 – July 20, 2014) was an American politician and member of the Republican Party who served as the 32nd Governor of Oregon from 1979 to 1987. He was also the first elected governor of Syrian descent in the United States.Atiyeh was elected in 1978, defeating incumbent Democratic Governor Robert W. Straub. He was re-elected against future Governor Ted Kulongoski with 61.6% of the vote in 1982, the largest margin in 32 years. Prior to being elected Governor, Atiyeh had served continuously in the Oregon Legislature since 1959, initially in the House and later in the Senate. To date, Atiyeh is the last Republican to have served as the governor of Oregon.

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