Oregon Supreme Court Affirms: Nicholas Kristof Is Disqualified From May Ballot

The court rules the first-time candidate did not meet the state’s three-year residency requirement.

In a 33-page opinion released this morning, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s decision to disqualify Democratic candidate for governor Nicholas Kristof from the May primary ballot.

Here is the court’s summary of its thinking.

Fagan determined Jan. 6 that Kristof did not meet the state constitution’s three-year residency requirement for candidates for governor. Her decision turned on the fact that Kristof, a New York Times journalist, spent most of the past 20 years living in New York and voted in New York in November 2020.

The court agreed with Fagan’s determination.

“We conclude that ‘resident within,’ when viewed against the legal context that surrounded the Oregon Constitution’s 1857 ratification, is best understood to refer to the legal concept of ‘domicile,’ which requires the fact of a fixed habitation or abode in a particular place, and an intention to remain there permanently or indefinitely,” the court wrote. “Under that legal concept, a person can have only a single residence at a time.”

The ruling upends what had been a three-way race for the Democratic nomination for governor among the newcomer Kristof, who retired from the Times after 37 years to run for office, and two veteran politicians, former House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and State Treasurer Tobias Read. Kristof had outpaced the other two in fundraising.

As a first-time candidate, Kristof focused on the many areas in which Oregon could improve. It will be harder for Kotek and Read, both of whom first won election in 2006, to challenge the status quo. Much of Kristof’s financial support (he raised $2.75 million, more than his opponents combined) came from outside Oregon, and so it is unclear whether those donors will retain an interest in the race now that Kristof is conclusively off the ballot.

Kotek was the first candidate to publicly address the court’s decision.

“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,” Kotek said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him as a fellow Democrat.”

In a statement of his own, Kristof said he would not avail himself of the slim options remaining to him: to ask the court for reconsideration or pursue an appeal in federal court.

“The Supreme Court has spoken,” Kristof said. “This ruling represents the end of my campaign for governor.

“But let me be clear: I’m not going anywhere. As I’ve said many times, I’ve been an Oregonian since I was a kid helping out on my family’s farm. And I’ll be an Oregonian until the moment I draw my last breath.”

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.