Secretary of State Shemia Fagan this morning ruled that Nicholas Kristof does not meet the state’s three-year residency requirement for candidates for governor.
“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,” Fagan said in a statement.
“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. 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.”
The ruling comes as a body blow to the former New York Times journalist, whose campaign got off to a strong start, bringing in $2.5 million since October, far more than his two leading rivals, House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and State Treasurer Tobias Read, have collectively raised.
In August, WW first reported that Kristof, who grew up in Yamhill but spent much of his adult life in New York and in various foreign postings, had voted in New York in the November 2020 general election. He and his wife, former journalist Sheryl WuDunn, owned a home in Westchester County and sent their three children to local schools there.
There is no clear-cut definition of residency for electoral purposes. Officials consider many factors, including where a person sleeps, gets mail, banks, obtains medical care, holds a driver’s license, and engages in civic activities, such as voting. In making their case that Kristof has long been an Oregon resident, Kristof’s attorneys pointed to his having owned property in Yamhill since the early 1990s, having spent significant time on that property every year, and having spent much of his time living there beginning in 2018.
In a letter to Kristof, however, Fagan’s elections compliance officials highlighted his recent voting in New York.
“When determining residency for elections purposes, the place where a person votes is particularly powerful, because voting is the center of engaged citizenship,” the letter says. “The fact that you voted in New York strongly indicates that you viewed it as the place whereyou intended to permanently return when you were away.”
Fagan made her ruling in consultation with the Oregon Department of Justice, whose attorneys advise state agencies on matters of law and represent those agencies in court.
A Democrat, Fagan faced a difficult choice: She won her seat with strong support from the state’s public employee unions, which have traditionally supported Kotek and are likely to do so again. On the other hand, Democrats have made expanding access to voting and the political process a key plank in their platform nationally and in Oregon. As a state senator in 2019, Fagan herself introduced a bill that would have lowered the voting age from 18 to 16. The bill failed.
Kristof campaign tells WW he will appeal Fagan’s decision and hold a press conference later today.