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Former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof ineligible to run for governor, Oregon secretary of state says

On Oct. 27, 2021, former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof announced he is running for governor of Oregon, the state where he grew up. (Video: KPTV via AP)

Nicholas Kristof, a former New York Times columnist who in October announced a Democratic campaign for Oregon governor, is ineligible to run for the office, the Oregon secretary of state has announced, upending the journalist-turned-politician’s nascent campaign.

In a statement Thursday, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said her office was rejecting Kristof’s filing to run for governor because he does not meet the constitutional requirements to serve. She said a gubernatorial candidate must have been a “resident within this state” for three years before the election.

“The rules are the rules and they apply equally to all candidates for office in Oregon. I stand by the determination of the experts in the Oregon Elections Division that Mr. Kristof does not currently meet the Constitutional requirements to run or serve as Oregon Governor,” said Fagan, a fellow Democrat.

“As Oregon’s chief elections official, it is my responsibility to make sure all candidates on the statewide ballot are qualified to serve if elected,” she added. “The Oregon Elections Division and local election officials use the same standards to determine qualifications for hundreds of candidates in dozens of offices every year. In this instance, the candidate clearly does not meet the constitutional requirement to run or serve as governor of Oregon.”

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Kristof repeatedly took aim at the “establishment” and the “political class,” declaring, “My willingness to challenge the status quo is the reason state officials are trying to toss me from the ballot.”

“This is a decision grounded in politics, not precedent. The law is clearly on our side. Our campaign will challenge this decision in court, and we will win,” he said.

Kristof faced several questions from reporters about his tax returns, which he said he will release in the spring.

“We will indeed provide our tax returns, along with other candidates, later, as is traditional,” he said.

He also criticized the decision on social media earlier Thursday.

“A failing political establishment in Oregon has chosen to protect itself, rather than give voters a choice,” Kristof tweeted. “We will challenge this decision in court, and we are confident we will prevail, because the law is on our side.”

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, state elections director Deborah Scroggin sent a letter to Kristof on Thursday saying officials “did not make this decision lightly.”

Among their reasons, officials noted that Kristof had voted as a New York resident and held a New York driver’s license from 2000 to 2020, Scroggin wrote. Though he owned and maintained homes in New York and Oregon, officials said he spent most of his time away from Oregon, she added.

“In order to satisfy the three-year residency requirement, you must have been a resident in Oregon for the entire three-year period beginning in November 2019,” Scroggin wrote. “But the objective facts, including your decision to vote in New York, convincingly suggest that you resided in New York at least from November 2019 to December 2020.”

Last month, as news emerged that state election officials were questioning Kristof’s eligibility to run in Oregon, his campaign shared a Portland Tribune piece that argued that where Kristof registered to vote shouldn’t matter when determining his home.

In launching his campaign, Kristof spoke of his roots in Yamhill, Ore., the opportunities he felt his Oregon upbringing had given him and the decline in prospects for those with whom he grew up. He repeatedly referred to Oregon as his home state. In his filing to organize a candidate committee, Kristof listed his occupation as “Journalist, Author, Farmer.” On his campaign website, Kristof wrote that he and his wife, writer Sheryl WuDunn, have been revitalizing their family apple and grape farm.

“It’s hard to watch your home state struggle when you can make a difference on homelessness, education, jobs,” Kristof, 62, tweeted then, with a link to his campaign video.

Kristof, who has no political experience, said as much in his launch video. Instead, he leaned heavily on his 37-year career at the Times — where he was a foreign correspondent and a columnist who won the Pulitzer Prize — saying he “spent a lifetime shining a light in the darkest corners of the globe.”

Kristof had been on a leave of absence from the newspaper since June as he decided whether to run for political office, and he resigned from the Times in early October. In a statement about his departure, Kristof said he was leaving his dream job “very reluctantly” and alluded vaguely to a possible run for governor in Oregon.

“I’ve been on the ride of a lifetime with The Times. I’ve gotten to know presidents and tyrants, Nobel laureates and warlords, while visiting 160 countries. And precisely because I have a great job, outstanding editors and the best readers, I may be an idiot to leave,” Kristof said then.

“But you all know how much I love Oregon, and how much I’ve been seared by the suffering of old friends there,” he added. “So I’ve reluctantly concluded that I should try not only to expose problems but also see if I can fix them directly.”

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