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Kitzhaber, Richardson Again Clash Over Role Of First Lady

Stephanie Yao Long
The Oregonian

The behavior of Oregon's First Lady provoked the sharpest exchanges during a gubernatorial debate in Portland Tuesday night on KGW television. Incumbent Democrat John Kitzhaber declared that he would freeze out his fiancé from any policy-making roles in the near-term.

First Lady Cylvia Hayes has supplied the biggest headlines in the governor's race of late. It started with her admission of a sham marriage to help an Ethiopian immigrant get a green card. The latest admission is that she and an ex-boyfriend planned a marijuana grow operation when they lived in rural northeast Washington more than 15 years ago. Governor John Kitzhaber says those revelations are personal matters that he and Hayes are working through. But the governor defended Hayes against yet other charges that she used her title of First Lady to secure lucrative contracts for her private consulting firm.

John Kitzhaber: "I do not believe that any Oregon criminal laws or federal criminal laws were violated, period."

Republican challenger Dennis Richardson doesn't buy that. He says the governor should appoint a special prosecutor.

Dennis Richardson: "For the governor to say that he hasn't seen that that's a problem, then he doesn't see corruption that is obvious to the rest of us."

Richardson is trying to become the first Republican to be elected governor in Oregon since 1982. If Kitzhaber wins re-election it would be for his fourth term.

In August, the twice-divorced Kitzhaber announced he proposed marriage to his First Lady, the thrice-divorced Hayes.

It was a night of political debates around the Pacific Northwest. Congressional candidates and gubernatorial candidates squared off in Idaho. Meanwhile, Oregon viewers could choose between simultaneous debates between the leading contenders for U.S. Senate and for governor.

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