Katherine Brown (born June 21, 1960) is an American politician and attorney serving as the 38th governor of Oregon since 2015. A member of the Democratic Party, she served three terms as the state representative from the 13th district of the Oregon House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997, three terms as the state senator from the 21st district of the Oregon Senate from 1997 to 2009, three terms as majority leader of the Oregon Senate from 2003 to 2009, as well as two terms as Oregon Secretary of State from 2009 to 2015. She assumed the governorship upon the resignation of John Kitzhaber in 2015.[1] She was elected to serve out the remainder of his gubernatorial term in the special election in 2016 and was reelected to a full term in 2018.

Kate Brown
Kate Brown P20211022AS-2274 (51761372021) (3x4a).jpg
38th Governor of Oregon
Assumed office
February 18, 2015
Preceded byJohn Kitzhaber
24th Secretary of State of Oregon
In office
January 5, 2009 – February 18, 2015
GovernorTed Kulongoski
John Kitzhaber
Preceded byBill Bradbury
Succeeded byJeanne Atkins
Member of the Oregon Senate
from the 21st district
In office
January 13, 1997 – January 2, 2009
Preceded byShirley Gold
Succeeded byDiane Rosenbaum
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 13th district
In office
November 26, 1991 – January 12, 1997
Preceded byJudy Bauman
Succeeded byDan Gardner
Personal details
Katherine Brown

(1960-06-21) June 21, 1960 (age 62)
Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseDan Little
Children2 stepchildren
ResidenceMahonia Hall
EducationUniversity of Colorado, Boulder (BA)
Lewis and Clark College (JD)

As an openly bisexual woman, Brown has made history several times through her electoral success. In 2008, she became the first openly LGBT person elected secretary of state of a state in the United States. In 2016, she became the first openly LGBT person elected governor of a state in the United States as well as the second woman elected governor of Oregon (after Barbara Roberts).[2][3]

Early life and educationEdit

Brown was born in Torrejón de Ardoz in Spain, where her father, Dr. James Paterson Brown, an eye doctor, was serving in the United States Air Force, at Torrejón Air Base.[4][5] She grew up in Minnesota. She graduated from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota in 1978.[6] She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Conservation with a certificate in women's studies from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1981 and a J.D. degree and certificate in environmental law from the Lewis & Clark College Law School in 1985.[7]


Oregon Legislative AssemblyEdit

Brown in 2008

Brown was appointed to the Oregon House of Representatives in 1991, filling a vacancy in a Portland seat left by predecessor Judy Bauman, who took an executive appointment.[8] 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 2003, she was elected Majority Leader of the Oregon Senate.

Brown was a top fundraiser for her caucus, helping the Democrats tie the Republicans in the Oregon Senate in 2003. That same year she also won the position of caucus leader. Brown helped round up votes to pass a bill that year reforming the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System, although she ultimately voted against it to preserve her relationship with labor unions.[9]

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 the next year.[10] 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.[11]

Oregon Secretary of StateEdit

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.[12]

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.[13]

Brown accepting an award from the Oregon National Guard, June 2014

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.[14]

In 2009 the Aspen Institute named Brown as one of 24 "Rising Stars" in American politics and awarded her 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.[15]

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.[16]

In January 2015 Brown submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the purchase of Time Warner Cable by Comcast 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.[17]

Governor of OregonEdit

On February 18, 2015, Governor John Kitzhaber resigned amid a public corruption scandal just three months after his reelection; Brown succeeded him since the Constitution of Oregon identifies the secretary of state as the successor when the governor leaves office prematurely.[1]

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.[18][19] She appointed Jeanne Atkins secretary of state.[20]

Upon taking office, Brown extended the moratorium on executions Kitzhaber had enacted.[21] In 2015, she also signed a "motor voter" bill she had championed while secretary of state, to automatically register voters using their driver's license data.[22][23] At Politico's "State Solutions" voter engagement conference, Brown said, "Registration is a barrier to people participating in this process" and "Voting is a fundamental right of being a citizen, and people across the country should have the ability to access this fundamental right without barriers like registration". Addressing critics of policies aimed at increasing voter turnout, such as Oregon's "motor voter" law, she said, "I think the good news is, in Oregon, we actually want people to vote in our state."[24]

In July 2016 Brown signed HB3402, which raised the maximum speed limit to 70 MPH on I-82 and sections of I-84 and US-95. Previously the maximum allowed speed limit allowed on Oregon highways was 65. This bill also raised speed limits on non-interstate highways in eastern Oregon from 55 to 65.[25]

Oregon law required a special election in November 2016 for the two years remaining in Kitzhaber's unfinished term as governor. By April 2016 Brown had raised over $800,000 for her campaign in 2016 alone, while her closest Democratic primary competitor, Julian Bell, had raised $33,000. She defeated Bell, Chet Chance, Kevin M. Forsythe, Steve Johnson, and Dave Stauffer for the Democratic nomination.[26][27] She won the general election against Republican Party nominee Bud Pierce, Independent Party nominee Cliff Thomason, Libertarian Party nominee James Foster, and Constitution Party nominee Aaron Donald Auer, receiving 51% of the vote.

In January 2017 Brown named Nik Blosser[28] her third chief of staff after the resignation of former chief of staff Kristen Leonard.[29][30] In June 2017 Brown signed into law the Oregon Equal Pay Act, which banned employers from using job seekers' prior salaries in hiring decisions.[31]

Brown was reelected in November 2018, defeating Republican Knute Buehler 50.0% to 43.9%, with Independent Party nominee Patrick Starnes, Libertarian Party nominee Nick Chen, Constitution Party nominee Aaron Auer, and Progressive Party nominee Chris Henry taking the remaining votes. She had received 82% in the Democratic primary.

In a November 2018 budget plan Brown proposed a 30-year plan to limit Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions via a cap-and-trade system.[32] On June 20, 2019, Brown authorized state troopers to search for and return 11 Republican state senators after the Oregon Senate ordered the Sergeant-at-Arms to compel them to attend a Senate session. The senators had left to prevent a quorum in the Senate and thereby block the passage of a sweeping climate change bill.[33][34]

In 2019, after a measles outbreak in Oregon, Brown urged parents to vaccinate their children.[35]

In response to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, Brown has publicly urged Oregonians to stay home to avoid spreading the virus, but was initially criticized for not issuing a shelter-in-place order.[36] The order was officially issued on March 23, 2020.[37]

In August 2021, The Oregonian wrote, "Gov. Kate Brown signed a law to allow Oregon students to graduate without proving they can write or do math."[38]


As secretary of state, Brown faced political backlash over the scheduling of the election for labor commissioner between Democrat Brad Avakian and Republican Bruce Starr. The election for this position is typically held in May, but in 2009 the Oregon legislature passed bipartisan House Bill 2095,[39] which required the election to be held in November 2012. Despite this, Starr accused Brown of pushing the election to November to help Avakian win. Brown called his accusations "unfounded and outrageous", saying her office was simply enforcing a "very clear" law, and that "this is an issue of election law, not politics".[40][9] Starr filed a lawsuit attempting to force Brown to hold the election in May, but the lawsuit was denied because Starr could not show he was likely to prevail on the merits of his case.[41]

In March 2018, Brown was criticized for firing state librarian MaryKay Dahlgreen, a move that surprised members of the Oregon State Library Board of Directors.[42] She has also been accused of mismanaging Oregon DHS Child Welfare in audits published in January 2018.[43][44][45][46][47][48][49]

In July 2018, Brown brokered meetings between several large Oregon-based companies, including Nike, and union leaders over campaigns to include Initiative Petition 25, a corporate transparency initiative, and Measure 104, geared toward limiting reductions in corporate tax breaks, on the November ballot. Brown's office said her goal was to prevent both initiatives from coming to fruition. She later faced complaints over the alleged brokering of an agreement—supposedly in exchange for financial support through a Nike PAC—in order to keep Petition 25 off the ballot. That year, Nike founder Phil Knight contributed over $1 million to Brown's Republican opponent's campaign, although the company itself gave financial support to Brown.[50] Only a week after the submission of an official complaint, Oregon's Department of Justice found no grounds for an investigation, with the Department's Criminal Justice Division chief council writing, "there is no information that the proponents of [Initiative Petition 25] sought to qualify the petition for the ballot for an improper purpose." Brown and supporters later characterized the complaint as a political ploy.[51] Initiative Petition 25's sponsors ultimately withheld it from the November ballot. Despite having obtained the requisite number of signatures before the submission deadline, union leaders cited an "internal decision", rather than Nike's or Brown's influence, in choosing not to proceed. With Measure 104 and several other anti-tax and anti-labor bills having already secured spaces on the ballot, AFSCME political director Joe Baessler called the issue a "question of resources".[52]

Brown's process in appointing Misha Isaak, formerly her general attorney, to the Oregon Court of Appeals in August 2019 caused concern among members of the State Bar Association.[53] After the Public Records Advocate resigned and released correspondence damaging to Isaak, more people called on Brown to revoke the appointment, including former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Edwin Peterson.[54][55]

In November 2021, Brown had a 43% job approval rating, the lowest of any U.S. governor.[56] The same poll found that her approval rating declined to 40% in October 2022, again the lowest in the country.[57]

2019 recall attemptEdit

In 2019, the Oregon Republican Party and an independent group, "Flush Down Kate Brown", attempted to remove Brown by recall petition, but fell 40,790 signatures short of the required 280,050.[58]

2020 recall attemptEdit

In 2020, Bill Currier, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party and mayor of Adair Village, launched another recall petition. It cited many of the concerns in the 2019 petition in addition to others, mostly focused on her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Oregon.[59] Wilsonville activist Kelsey Massey started another petition.[60] One must collect at least 280,050 signatures to trigger a verification process, the first step toward a recall election. On August 31, Currier announced that the recall would not be on the ballot because it had not received enough signatures. For the Massey petition, no signatures were submitted by the July 31 deadline.[61]

Personal lifeEdit

Brown lives in Mahonia Hall. She lives with her husband, Dan Little and two stepchildren, Dylan and Jessie. She is the country's first openly bisexual statewide office holder and first openly bisexual governor.[11][62][63][64]

Electoral historyEdit

Oregon State SenateEdit


Oregon's State Senate 21st District Democratic Primary Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 13,541 98.81%
write-ins 163 1.19%
Total votes 13,704 100%
Oregon's State Senate 21st District Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 52,278 86.52%
Libertarian Theresa Reed 4,563 7.55%
Constitution Paul deParrie 3,126 5.17%
write-ins 455 0.75%
Total votes 60,422 100%

Oregon Secretary of StateEdit


Oregon Secretary of State Democratic Primary Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown 277,853 51.74%
Democratic Rick Metsger 145,820 27.15%
Democratic Vicki Walker 96,835 18.03%
Democratic Paul Damian Wells 14,696 2.74%
write-ins 1,842 0.34%
Total votes 537,046 100%
Oregon Secretary of State Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown 873,968 51.00%
Republican Rick Dancer 785,740 45.85%
Pacific Green Seth Alan Woolley 51,271 2.99%
write-ins 2,740 0.16%
Total votes 1,713,719 100%


Oregon Secretary of State Democratic Primary Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 284,470 91.13%
Democratic Paul Damian Wells 26,177 8.39%
write-ins 1,510 0.48%
Total votes 312,157 100%
Oregon Secretary of State Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 863,656 51.28%
Republican Knute Buehler 727,607 43.20%
Pacific Green Seth Woolley 44,235 2.63%
Libertarian Bruce Alexander Knight 24,273 1.44%
Progressive Robert Wolfe 21,783 1.29%
write-ins 2,561 0.15%
Total votes 1,684,115 100%

Governor of OregonEdit


Oregon Gubernatorial Special Democratic Primary Election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 494,890 83.06%
Democratic Julian Bell 49,113 8.24%
Democratic Dave Stauffer 16,108 2.70%
Democratic Steve Johnson 13,363 2.24%
Democratic Kevin Forsythe 10,147 1.70%
Democratic Chet Chance 5,636 0.95%
write-ins 6,595 1.11%
Total votes 595,852 100%
Oregon Gubernatorial Special Election, 2016[65]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 985,027 50.62%
Republican Bud Pierce 845,609 43.45%
Independent Cliff Thomason 47,481 2.44%
Libertarian James Foster 45,191 2.32%
Constitution Aaron Donald Auer 19,400 1.00%
write-ins 3,338 0.17%
Total votes 1,946,046 100%


Oregon Gubernatorial Democratic Primary Election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 324,541 81.9%
Democratic Ed Jones 33,464 8.4%
Democratic Candace Neville 29,110 7.4%
write-ins 8,912 2.3%
Total votes 396,027 100%
Oregon Gubernatorial Election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kate Brown (Incumbent) 885,232 50.0%
Republican Knute Buehler 776,558 43.9%
Independent Patrick Starnes 50,879 2.9%
Libertarian Nick Chen 26,587 1.5%
Constitution Aaron Auer 19,645 1.1%
Progressive Chris Henry 10,252 0.6%
Total votes 1,769,153 100%

Awards and distinctionsEdit

See alsoEdit


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  3. ^ Helena Horton (September 9, 2016). "People are celebrating women who made history on US Election night in response to Donald Trump win". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  4. ^ "Obituary for Dr. James Paterson Brown". Star Tribune.
  5. ^ Oregonian/OregonLive, Hillary Borrud | The (October 21, 2018). "Kate Brown's experience could help or hurt her chances". oregonlive.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Peter Wong (February 18, 2015). "Calling Kate Brown". Portland Tribune. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b Jaquiss, Nigel (February 10, 2015). "Governor in Waiting". Willamette Week. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Kost, Ryan (July 10, 2007). "Senator joins secretary of state race". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  11. ^ a b Bajko, Matthew S. (November 22, 2007). "Political Notebook: Bisexual, lesbian politicians stump in SF". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved May 15, 2008.
  12. ^ Kost, Ryan. "Says for every dollar the state spent on audits last year, it delivered $64 in cost savings". PolitiFact. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  13. ^ "Enrolled – House Bill 2005". 75th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY—2009 Regular Session. State of Oregon. June 15, 2009. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  14. ^ Foden-Vencil, Kristian. "Online Voter Registration Celebrates First Anniversary". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved March 19, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Selects 24 'Rising Stars' in Governance For Its Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership Program". The Aspen Institute. July 29, 2009. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  16. ^ Wong, Wylie. "How iPads Are Making Voting More Accessible in Oregon". StateTech Magazine. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  17. ^ Woodman, Spencer (January 26, 2015). "Exclusive: politicians are supporting Comcast's TWC merger with letters ghostwritten by Comcast". The Verge. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
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  32. ^ Wilson, Reid (December 9, 2018). "New governors plan aggressive climate steps". The Hill. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
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  43. ^ Bach, Jonathan (January 31, 2018). "Oregon DHS child welfare audit says staff endured 'bullying, intimidation' by agency leaders". Statesman Journal. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Oregon Secretary of State
2008, 2012
Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Oregon
2016, 2018
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Secretary of State of Oregon
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Oregon
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Vice President Order of precedence of the United States
Within Oregon
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Preceded byas Governor of Minnesota Order of precedence of the United States
Outside Oregon
Succeeded byas Governor of Kansas