Kristof cannot run for Oregon governor, Supreme Court rules
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, Feb. 17, that former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof is not eligible to run for governor.
The court posted a ruling on its website around 8 a.m. that said Kristof does not meet the residency requirement in the Oregon Constitution. The state constitution says candidates for governor must be a resident of the state for three year before the election they could win.
The court upheld a January ruling by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan that Kristof did not meet Oregon's requirement to have lived in the state since November 2019. The election is November 2022.
Justices agreed with Fagan's reading of the law, finding that her concept of resident was in line with historical interpretations, including a residency requirement for president in the U.S. Constitution.
"In the 19th century and in the context of political rights — and election-related rights in particular — 'residence' meant 'domicile,' the one place where a person has established his or her permanent abode," the court ruled.
Kristof issued a statement saying he accepts the ruling and will not challenge it.
"In today's opinion, the Supreme Court suggested I could petition for reconsideration or pursue unaddressed issues in federal court, but I respect the court's decision and will not pursue this further," said Kristof, who promised he will remain in Oregon and continue working to solve the state's problems.
"Oregon is in a moment of crisis and it affects all of us. And far too many of our families and friends are left to struggle with the impact of those choices on their own because our political system believes their problems are too difficult to take on."
Kristof has also scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Fagan has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m.
The hotly anticipated ruling comes after months of back and forth between Kristof's campaign and state officials, who argued that because Kristof lived in New York and voted in New York elections as recently as 2020, he could not claim residency. Kristof's attorneys argued that he was raised in Oregon, considers the state his home, and only moved out for education and employment.
The constitution and state law do not define the term "resident," and the issue has never been fully litigated.
Kristof appealed Fagan's ruling to the Supreme Court, arguing, among other things, that the Marion County Circuit Court ruled in 1974 that state Rep. Bill Wyatt was eligible to run for his northern Oregon Coast seat despite registering and voting in Eugene while attending the University of Oregon earlier. Then-Oregon Secretary of State Clay Myers did not appeal the ruling.
The Oregon Department of Justice, representing Fagan, responded with a filing on Jan. 20 that argued the "text, context and history" of the constitutional requirement indicated that "resident within" means "a person must have been domiciled in Oregon during that period" and that a person "can only have one domicile at any given time."
"Although (Kristof) lived in Oregon beginning at age 12 and until he left for college, and he continues to have ties here, his conduct shows that he was domiciled in New York — not Oregon — until at least December 2020," the state's brief continued.
Kristof's campaign had responded that "resident" is more a matter of intent that is not limited by technicalities like driver's licenses and voter registrations.
"The Oregon Constitution has room enough to accommodate the lives of real people like Kristof. He has been a resident of the state for many years, his ties to Oregon are deep and abiding, and voters — not elections officials — should decide his suitability to be governor," Kristof's lawyers said in the Jan. 26 filing.
The court decision has both short- and long-term implications.
Kristof has raised nearly $2.75 million in cash and in-kind contributions, far more than any other Democrat in the race, including State Treasurer Tobias Read and former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who resigned her North Portland seat to run for governor.
The secretary of state's office has said Kristof can keep the contributions and spend them as he chooses. Read and Kotek are now the clear Democratic frontrunners in the 2022 race, however.
Both Read and Kotek acknowledged the court ruling Thursday morning in conciliatory statements.
"While Nick Kristof will not be on the ballot, he helped shape the Democratic primary conversation, drawing attention to policies that are failing too many Oregonians," read in part a statement from Read's campaign manager, Jessica LaVigne. "He spoke passionately about the need to address homelessness and the lack of opportunity in rural Oregon. We welcome his supporters to join our team, because we share many of the same priorities and views."
From her official campaign account, Kotek tweeted, "Nick Kristof has long written about pressing issues facing Oregonians and his voice will continue to be important as we tackle Oregon's biggest issues. I look forward to working with him as a fellow Democrat."
Kristof's position that he ought to be given ballot access had been supported by former Oregon secretaries of state who recommended a broad reading of the term resident. It was opposed by a group of politically active Oregon women of color who accuse Kristof of using his white male privilege to qualify for the ballot. Several of them have endorsed Kotek.
It was not immediately clear how the ruling will affect Oregon voters who have more than one home.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with more details and quotes regarding the Thursday, Feb. 17, court decision upholding Nick Kristof's disqualification from the May 2022 primary ballot.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.