Institute of Politics

Kate Brown

Former Democratic Governor of Oregon

  • Fall 2023 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminar Series: “Governing in Turbulence: From Housing to Drugs to Historic Social & Criminal Justice Movements”


Governor Brown has worked throughout her career to build a better Oregon for everyone. She has served as: Oregon State Representative, State Senator, Secretary of State and most recently, as Oregon’s 38th Governor.

Governor Brown created a seamless system of education from cradle to career: doubling the number of preschool slots available, fully funding career and technical education and passing the Student Success Act, a $2 billion additional biennial investment in Oregon's schools. She crafted the country's first automatic voter registration law, ensured that more than 95% of Oregonians have health care, and passed a historic transportation infrastructure package. Under her leadership, Oregon made significant strides to tackle climate change by passing the nation’s first commitment to carbon free energy.

Her executive actions during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in one of the lowest case and mortality rates in the country, while focusing recovery efforts on addressing the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on communities of color, families with low incomes and rural communities.

Throughout her career in public service, Governor Brown has fought to make Oregon a more just and equitable place for everyone. She increased diversity throughout state government, from the makeup of the workforce to Oregonians appointed to boards and commissions. To diversify Oregon’s judicial system, the Governor vetted and appointed 112 judges to Oregon’s trial, appellate and tax courts including 56 women, 27 people of color, 2 Native Americans, eight people who openly identify as LGBTQ+, and the first African American Supreme Court justice. She also commuted the sentences of everyone on Oregon’s death row and advanced one of the country’s most progressive clemency and pardon programs.

In addition to her public service, Governor Brown has practiced family and juvenile law and taught in the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. Most recently, she served as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, Spring 2023.

She has participated in numerous leadership training programs available to elected officials, including the Toll Fellows (Council of State Government), the Rodel Fellows program and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program


“Governing in Turbulence: From Housing to Drugs to Historic Social & Criminal Justice Movements”

Oregon is one of the most complex states in the nation, renowned for its vibrant natural beauty, tranquil vibes and its quirky largest city, Portland. But like far more populated states, it has struggled with a housing shortage, an intransigent drug problem, political extremism and criminal justice disparities.

Former Oregon Governor Kate Brown - who unexpectedly ascended to the role with five days' notice - will establish how her state is a window into America’s greatest policy challenges. She and her guests will share both leadership opportunities and lessons gained from a housing crisis, a long overdue call for racial justice, unprecedented climate change events, a mass shooting and a historic pandemic. A long-time public servant, Brown will bring her unique experience as the nation’s first openly bisexual governor and Oregon's second woman governor.

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