Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is ineligible to run for governor of Oregon because he does not meet a residency requirement, the state's top elections official said on Thursday.
“While this case has clearly garnered significant public interest, in the end our elections officials told me it wasn’t even a close call,” Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat, said in a press conference explaining the decision. “And while there have been creative legal arguments and an impressive PR campaign, given the evidence I venture that most Oregonians who are paying attention have reached the same conclusion.”
In a press conference of his own, Kristof said he plans on appealing the decision in state court. “Because I’ve always known Oregon to be my home, the law says that I am qualified to run for governor,” he said during the press conference, emphasizing family roots in the state.
He also said he would not stop campaigning while he is appealing the decision.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist announced last year that he was running in Democratic primary to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. He left his post at The New York Times in mid-October, before officially launching his bid two weeks later.
Even before he formally launched his campaign, Kristof was trying to push aside challenges to his residency. Attorneys representing Kristof argued last year that he has kept a residence in the state and “considered Oregon to be his home at all times,” despite the fact that he voted in New York in 2020 and has spent a considerable amount of time outside the state. His campaign submitted an extensive argument to state election officials earlier this week echoing that.
Fagan said that the totality of the evidence — including where Kristof was raising his children and had a driver’s license issued — indicated to election analysts that his claim of residency in Oregon “just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Kristof called the decision to kick him off the ballot a “political decision and not one based on the law,” repeatedly saying that the “political establishment” in the state opposed his candidacy. Kristof said former Oregon secretaries of state supported his claims to be on the ballot.
The state constitution requires gubernatorial candidates to have been a “resident within this state” for three years prior the election.
The field to replace Brown is crowded, even with Kristof’s apparent disqualification. Tina Kotek, the speaker of the state House, and state Treasurer Tobias Read are likely the two biggest names in a packed Democratic primary. Also on Thursday, Kotek announced that she would resign from the state legislature later this month to focus on her campaign.
Republicans also have a busy field, which includes former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan and 2016 nominee Bud Pierce. Democrats have won every election for Oregon governor since 1986.
Kristof had been far outpacing his opponents in fundraising. Late last year, he said he raised over $2.5 million for his campaign. The filing deadline for the May 17 primary is March 8.
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