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Kitzhaber steps down; Oregon to have first openly bisexual U.S. governor

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Former Secretary of State Phil Keisling vividly recalls Brown knocking on his door to ask for his vote during her first House primary, which she won by just seven votes.

“Kate Brown is really a hard worker,” said Keisling, now director of the Center for Public Service in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. “She cares a lot about public policy.”

Brown made improvements to the vote-by-mail system and has sought transparency in government, including instituting an online database for campaign finance, Keisling said.

She also fought to pass a bill to register nearly every Oregonian to vote by signing them up through driver license records.

She failed to get that through the Legislature two years ago, when she could not summon a united front among Democrats. Republicans solidly opposed it, fearing it would add to the registration advantage that has propelled the Democrats to dominance in statewide offices.

More Democratic legislative gains in 2014 make the prospects for her bill brighter in the session that began in earnest this month.

At her latest inauguration, Brown pledged to ensure effective audits of government agencies and to ask the Legislature for authority to create an office to help small businesses navigate regulations. She also said it was time for Oregon to limit contributions to political campaigns.

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“I will put the strength of democracy before politics,” she said.

She was appointed to the Oregon House in 1991, when another Democrat left to take a new job, and was elected to two terms. She was then elected to the state Senate and in 2004 became the first woman to serve as majority leader.

At this stage, “it’s fair to say people just don’t know who she is,” Cease said, citing the lack of exposure for the secretary of state job.

But, he added, Brown “cares about people. And there’s nothing mean about her.”

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