Nick Kristof portrait
Nick Kristof (Oregon Capital Chronicle via Kristof campaign)

The former New York Times columnist doesn’t meet constitutional residency requirements, election officials determined

Deciding former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof didn’t qualify to run for governor “wasn’t even a close call,” Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said Thursday.

Fagan’s office notified Kristof’s campaign on Thursday morning that he didn’t meet a constitutional requirement to be a “resident within this state” for three years prior to the November 2022 election.

Kristof, who grew up in Oregon but lived most of his adult life outside the state, has outpaced other Democratic candidates in fundraising since he announced his campaign in October. However, questions lingered about his eligibility for office.

“The rules are the rules and they apply equally to all candidates for office in Oregon,” Fagan said in a statement. “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.”

Fagan said her office informed Kristof of its decision Thursday morning. Her office’s attorneys also spoke with his attorneys by phone Thursday morning, she said.

Kristof can appeal the decision in a state circuit court.

His campaign has maintained that he has always considered Oregon home and was therefore eligible to run for governor.

He voted in New York as recently as November 2020 and had continued to use his New York address on other recent public documents obtained by the Oregon Capital Chronicle through records requests. Kristof declined to share documents that would establish his residency.

In their letter to Kristof, compliance specialist Lydia Plukchi and Elections Director Deborah Scroggin wrote that his New York voting history played a major role in their decision.

“When determining residency for elections purposes, the place where a person votes is particularly powerful, because voting is the center of engaged citizenship,” the two wrote. “The fact that you voted in New York strongly indicates that you viewed it as the place where you intended to permanently return when you were away.”

They noted that Kristof paid income taxes in New York from 1999 to 2021. He paid income taxes in Oregon in 2019 and 2020 but didn’t indicate whether he did so as a full-year resident, a part-year resident or a nonresident.

Kristof described working in both New York, where he was a New York Times columnist until resigning this fall, and Oregon, where he manages his family farm outside the rural community of Yamhill. He didn’t explain the extent of his involvement with the farm and how he supervised employees, Plukchi and Scroggin wrote.

“While a person’s statement of their intent is significant, we also consider a person’s prior acts,” they wrote. “We cannot ignore past acts that strongly indicate the person’s state of mind at that time, even if the person’s current sworn statement indicates a different intent.”

Kristof’s campaign spokeswoman said he would respond in a press conference later Thursday.

If he chooses to appeal the decision, courts must settle the matter by March 17 in order for Kristof to make the May primary ballot.

Fagan, a Democrat, stressed that her own personal politics did not affect her office’s decision. Supporters of several gubernatorial candidates supported her campaign last year, and Kristof’s attorney is a friend, she said.

“I’m a person of integrity, and Oregonians can trust that this is a process that was put through the professionals in the Elections Division who have the experience and the technical expertise to apply the qualifications to the law,” Fagan said.

Kristof is one of 11 statewide candidates so far this year to be disqualified from running for office for not meeting the minimum qualifications, and he’s one of seven candidates for governor who didn’t meet the standards. Plukchi said that number tends to peak when open high-profile races are on the ballot.

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland and state Treasurer Tobias Read are the other apparent front-runners in the Democratic primary.

This is a developing story and will be updated

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