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Archive for Saturday, May 8, 2004

Ex-governor admits affair with teen

May 8, 2004

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— Just days before a weekly paper was going to break the story, former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt admitting having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s, when he was mayor of Portland.

Goldschmidt, 63, stepped down from two major jobs Thursday and issued a public apology.

It was a sudden, shocking end to the career of a man known as a political rainmaker in Oregon, a top executive at Nike and transportation secretary under President Carter.

"May a forgiving God mend my broken heart and those I have broken," he said in a statement. Goldschmidt said he had lived with "enormous guilt and shame" in the 30 years since the nine-month affair ended.

Goldschmidt had stepped back in the state's political spotlight just last fall, taking on two major jobs: serving on the state Board of Higher Education and with a company trying to acquire the largest utility in Oregon from bankrupt Enron Corp.

Before word of the affair broke late Thursday, he resigned from both positions, initially citing only heart arrhythmia and blocked arteries that put him at risk of a heart attack.

Goldschmidt, who served a single term as governor from 1987 to 1991, told The Oregonian about the relationship for a story in Friday's paper.

He told the newspaper he came forward after learning that a weekly paper was on the verge of reporting the relationship. Before The Oregonian account surfaced, the Willamette Week, which publishes Wednesdays, reported on its Web site that it told the governor a day earlier it was preparing a story about his affair.

According to Oregon laws in 1975, sex with a girl under 16 constituted third-degree rape, but the statute of limitations expired in 1979.

Goldschmidt said the affair started in 1975 when he was 35. He was married at the time. Goldschmidt said he agreed in 1994 to pay the woman a financial settlement put at $250,000 by the weekly paper. He did not identify the woman, now 42.

"How can such behavior be erased when the damage to others and to myself lives on?" Goldschmidt, who is Jewish, said in a statement to The Oregonian. "I have sat in places of worship each year at Yom Kippur, the day of atonement in my religious tradition, reading in silence, searching for personal peace. And I have found that the answer to that question is that it cannot be erased."

He added: "I apologize now, publicly and completely."

Goldschmidt and his lawyer did not return several calls from The Associated Press.

"There are those who will be forgiving of him, and those who won't," said former Gov. Vic Atiyeh, a Republican who served two terms just before Goldschmidt. "But it's a stain that's not going to go away."

Michael Schrunk, a longtime friend and Multnomah County district attorney, said Goldschmidt's political accomplishments will endure, and outrage over the affair will fade with time.

"I think he still has something to offer," Schrunk said.

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