Gov. Kate Brown Leaves Office:-Before COVID-19 closed the Capitol, she was known for chatting with lobbyists, Republicans, and reporters. She praised the new glasses. She’d handwrite a baby-welcome note. She’s amiable and likes to spice up her legislative agenda with unique colloquialisms, such as telling people to wear “metal underpants” when times get rough and promising to “GSD” – Brown-speak for “get stuff done.”
Gov. Kate Brown Leaves Office With A Complex Legacy
Under her leadership, Democrats passed laws they’d been struggling with, including raising the minimum wage, mandating paid sick leave, and protecting reproductive health care. Democratic politicians failed for years to get increased school financing. Brown authorized a company tax that sends $1 billion annually to the state’s schools.
Why does everyone loathe Kate Brown as she leaves office next week?
2015’s political upheaval pushed Brown to government. Brown became governor after John Kitzhaber resigned in an ethics issue. She’s no accident-prone governor. Her law legalized public breastfeeding in Oregon in the late 1990s. She was the state’s first female Senate majority leader and secretary of state, a job viewed as a stepping stone for governor.
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Brown had a brief honeymoon after replacing Kitzhaber in 2015. Her friendliness contrasted with Kitzhaber’s aloofness. Consensus shifted swiftly. She was criticized for lacking vision and leadership.
Crisis-hit. repeatedly Massacre. Fire-filled oil train derailment. Armed overthrow. Devastating wildfires drove hundreds of thousands to flee. A deadly heat dome, racial justice issues that made the state’s largest city a target, and a global virus that killed millions.
Brown needed swift judgments. She shuttered schools to stop COVID-19’s spread. She gathered firefighters from neighboring states and repurposed a hospital to shelter evacuees. She contacted her political opponent, Vice President Mike Pence, and utilized their common Midwestern roots to remove federal officers from downtown Portland.
Brown’s fans believe she’ll be remembered for being steady in a crisis. Someone who can collaborate and listen and doesn’t obsess over credit. Most Oregonians agree with Brown’s views; they just elected a governor with similar principles.
Perception and reality haven’t always matched with the outgoing mayor. Brown’s ratings plummeted even when they agreed with her initiatives.
People are angry over lockdowns that put restaurants out of business, school closures that caused learning loss, and a housing problem.
Under Brown, governmental agencies experienced high-profile failures. The state’s Employment Department botched hundreds of pandemic checks. State housing agency rental help was slow and rough during the outbreak. As part of Oregon’s drug decriminalization push, the Oregon Health Authority struggles to build addiction treatment options.
Brown may be unpopular because of this. She’s a woman, possibly. Or maybe because she never established a clear political identity. The state’s longest-serving lawmaker, Peter Courtney, worked closely with Brown. She led amid difficult times, he remarked.
He said, “Kate Brown won’t be objectively appraised for a time.” “Long”
Covid-19, The Defining Moment
The governor’s reputation is shaped by her response to COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, when little was known about the fatal virus, Brown switched course. It appeared she was wavering on issues affecting Oregonians’ lives. She said she wouldn’t close public schools on March 12, 2020. 12 hours later, at 10 p.m., she said they were closing for a week.
On March 23, 2020, days after saying she wouldn’t force most Oregonians to stay home, she did so by executive order. Whiplash was reported. Republicans suggested she only cared about the executive branch. Others said she wasn’t quick or decisive enough. A notion evolved that Kate Brown followed her West Coast peers. Brown followed Govs. Jay Inslee and Gavin Newsom.
Brown replied, “That’s ironic.”
“I texted Newsom, ‘Let’s work as a region.'”
Under Brown, schools were closed for a long time (after closing them in March 2020, she ordered them to return to full-time or hybrid in March 2021), and she prioritized vaccinating teachers over the elderly (or at least those not living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities), and she took a while to lift the mask mandate.
Oregon did well on many indicators, including death rate, hospital stress, and vaccination rates. Morning Consult ranked her the nation’s least popular governor in April 2022.
Brown: “We based choices on science and data, not polls.”
Oregon’s second woman governor is Brown. She stated women are viewed differently than males but declined to say if sexism motivated her disfavor. First-term Gov. Barbara Roberts shared her opinion. Roberts claimed only she and Kate Brown faced recall campaigns in California history.
Roberts: “Our similarity is clear.” Some individuals don’t perceive women as leaders and don’t want them to instruct them on what to do.
Gov. Kate Brown has led Oregon through crisis after crisis — a mass shooting, devastating wildfires and COVID-19, to name a few.
As she hangs up the metal underpants and leaves office, why does everyone seem to hate her? https://t.co/uMs8fmuPPm
— OPB (@OPB) January 6, 2023
A Remade Judiciary
Brown’s legacy may be less about COVID-19 and more about how she reformed the state’s judiciary, halted the death penalty, and reduced the prison population. When Brown graduated from law school in 1985, there was only one woman on the Oregon Supreme Court. Before Brown became governor, the court never had more than two women.
“When I became governor, I changed that immediately,” Brown said. In her final weeks as governor, Brown commuted all death sentences and destroyed the execution chamber. Every justice on Oregon’s top court is now a Brown appointee. She’s appointed 56 women, 55 men, and 1 non-binary judge since 2015. She’s selected 27 judges of color, including two Native Americans, and 8 LGBTQ+ justices.
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Do Not Disturb
Democrats gathered at the Hyatt Regency at the Oregon Convention Center on election night in November. Due to the tight race, Tina Kotek, the Democratic nominee, and eventual victor didn’t take the stage until almost 11 p.m.
To fill the hole, Democrat after Democrat entered the stage. The prominent figures, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley spoke first. Unknown Democrats jumped up on stage and filibustered as the evening stretched on and the results remained close.
Brown attended the gathering, but she kept to herself much of the time and did not speak, giving the appearance that she was a political outcast within her own party.
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