SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon election officials ruled Thursday that former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is ineligible to run for governor because he does not meet the state’s three-year residency requirement.
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat, said it was obvious Kristof had been a New Yorker until just over one year ago, citing in particular his having voted in New York in the 2020 election.
“Oregon statute provides directly that … if a person casts a ballot in another state, they are no longer a resident of Oregon. It’s very, very simple,” Fagan told reporters.
“For 20 years living, working, raising his kids, holding a driver’s license, filing taxes and voting as a New York resident until a year ago just doesn’t pass the smell test,” she added.
Kristof said on Twitter that he plans to appeal, saying: “A failing political establishment in Oregon has chosen to protect itself, rather than give voters a choice.”
For years, Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, was a globe-trotting foreign correspondent and columnist. Kristof’s announcement that he would run for Oregon governor as a Democrat generated a lot of interest and he raised more than $1 million in less than a month.
Questions about Kristof’s residency had dogged him even before he announced his candidacy in October, the same month that The New York Times announced he had resigned. According to Oregon law, a candidate for governor must have been a resident of this state for at least three years before an election.
Kristof, 62, had told election officials in a sworn statement that he moved as a 12-year-old with his parents to a farm in Yamhill, Oregon, in 1971, and has considered it to be his home ever since. He has purchased additional acreage nearby since then.
His lawyers said he has paid taxes on the properties since they were purchased and that he filed Oregon income tax returns for 2019 and 2020.
Oregon Elections Director Deborah Scroggin and Compliance Specialist Lydia Plukchi told Kristof in a letter Thursday that they rejected his filing for governor because he did not meet the constitutional requirements to be a candidate.
“You suggest that we should apply a different standard, but we decline to change the way we evaluate residency,” they wrote, without elaborating.
Fagan said she endorsed the decision by the elections officials, who work for her, and didn’t even consider overruling it, adding: “It wasn’t even a close call.”
Scroggin and Plukchi told Kristof in their letter that he may “file an appeal to the appropriate circuit court.” That could be in Marion County, where the state capital of Salem and Fagan’s office is located.
An appeal could wind up in the Oregon Supreme Court. The primary elections are in May, in which voters choose their party’s candidates for governor and other offices.
Election officials said Thursday that despite their request for documentation to prove Kristof was an Oregon resident, he did not provide copies of his tax returns. Election officials acknowledged they didn’t specifically ask for them because they didn’t want to confine their request for documents to any particular item.
Kristof’s campaign recently offered a legal opinion by retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice William Riggs that Kristof has been a resident of Oregon since at least November 2019 “and likely much longer.”
Riggs said that Kristof’s voting in New York would undermine his Oregon residency only if it established that he didn’t intend Oregon to be his permanent home.
“By voting in New York, I had no intention of renouncing Oregon as my home,” Kristof said in an affidavit filed with Fagan’s office. Kristof said that after he dies he wants to be cremated and his ashes spread on his farm and on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Democrats have held Oregon’s governor’s office since 1987. Those running for the state’s high office include Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read.
Republicans seeking their party’s nomination include state Rep. Christine Drazan, former Republican nominee Bud Pierce and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam.
Former Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson is running as an independent.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky