Update, 2:30 p.m. PST:
PORTLAND, Ore. — The resignation of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber offers a swift promotion to the liberal Democrat who is next in line to succeed him: the 54-year-old secretary of state who has long been thought to have her eye on Oregon’s top elected position.
Kate Brown, who is widely considered to be to the left of the departing Democratic governor, will also become the first openly bisexual governor in the nation. She was not expected to assume office until Wednesday, when Kitzhaber was to leave office because of an influence-peddling scandal involving his fiancee.
Unlike most states, Oregon has no lieutenant governor. Under the state constitution, the secretary of state takes over if a governor steps down or dies. That has happened eight times since statehood, according to the Blue Book, the state government almanac.
Until recent weeks, the assumption about Brown’s career was that she would make a bid for governor when Kitzhaber’s term ends in 2018.
Brown, a Minnesota native, came to Oregon to attend law school in Portland, the state’s largest city, and established a family law practice before her first run for the Legislature.
The new job will require her to immediately start running for election, said Ron Cease, a retired professor of political science and public administration at Portland State University who served in the Legislature with Brown.
Brown would not serve out Kitzhaber’s full term, but would have to go on the ballot in the next general election in 2016.
“I would think the stress level is going to be enormous,” Cease said.
Her sexuality has never been a prominent issue in Oregon, where Portland recently had an openly gay mayor in Sam Adams and where the current speaker of the House, Tina Kotek, is a lesbian.
News accounts have long said Brown is married but considers herself bisexual, without saying more. Her Blue Book biography says she lives in Portland with her husband, Dan.
Asked about her on Thursday, spokesman Tony Green said that, so far as he knows, nothing about those descriptions has changed. He said he’s put the question directly to Brown, but she has not responded.
Democrat Jim McGreevey of New Jersey has been the nation’s only openly gay governor. He came out during a scandal-plagued term and resigned in 2004.
Mike Michaud, a Maine Democrat, lost a race last year that would have made him the first openly gay person elected governor.
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed Brown in her two campaigns for secretary of state, in 2008 and 2012. The fund’s executive director, Denis Dison, said that she would be the first openly bisexual governor.