Kitzhaber defends fiancee’s business in debate

Gov. John Kitzhaber is once again defending his fiancee’s work for organizations seeking to influence state policy.

The Democratic governor debated Republican state Rep. Dennis Richardson Tuesday night.

Revelations about Kitzhaber’s fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, have overshadowed the campaign for governor since last week. She’s acknowledged that she was involved in plans to grow marijuana and that she accepted money for a fraudulent marriage in the 1990s.

Richardson hit Kitzhaber hard on Hayes’ business, suggesting at one point she is “on the take.” Kitzhaber says her business arrangements were rigorously reviewed for conflicts, although public records show the review came only after she began the work.

Kitzhaber has asked an ethics commission to investigate, and he said Tuesday she won’t do any more work for his administration until the questions are resolved.

The debate in Portland was sponsored by KGW and The Oregonian.