Gov. Kate Brown has chosen a veteran LGBT campaigner to run her election effort.
Thomas Wheatley has replaced Michael Kolenc, who was suddenly fired earlier this month. Chris Pair, a campaign spokesman said Wheatley started last week.
Kolenc told Willamette Week, which broke the story of his firing, that he clashed with Brown's chief of staff, Kristen Leonard. He says the governor's slowness to take a position on Measure 97 — the corporate tax initiative — was also an issue. Brown campaign advisor Kevin Looper told the newspaper that he fired Kolenc because of poor performance.
Wheatley is taking a leave of absence from Renew Oregon, a coalition supporting several policies aimed at combating climate change, to run Brown's campaign to win election to the office she took over after John Kitzhaber's 2015 resignation.
Wheatley has spent most of his career on gay rights issue. He was organizing director of Basic Rights Oregon from 2005 to 2012 and was director of organizing for Freedom to Marry from 2012 to 2015. The latter group was instrumental in helping lay the groundwork for the Supreme Court's 2015 same-sex marriage decision.
Wheatley was also deputy campaign manager for Oregon Democrat Suzanne Bonamici's successful run for Congress in a 2012 special election.