New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof Is Exploring a Run for Oregon Governor

Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer winner, grew up on a Yamhill County farm.

Kristof_Clayton_WEB Nicholas Kristof, at right, returned to Yamhill County to write a book about his childhood friend Clayton Green. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

Nicholas Kristof, the two-time Pulitzer-winning columnist for The New York Times, is considering a run for Oregon governor.

In recent days, a poll includes Kristof’s name and asks voters how they would feel about a journalist who grew up on a farm running for office. The poll also includes other Democratic hopefuls. Kristof was raised on a sheep and cherry farm in Yamhill County, about an hour southwest of Portland.

Contacted about the poll, Kristof says his friends are attempting to recruit him.

“I have friends trying to convince me that here in Oregon, we need new leadership from outside the broken political system,” he tells WW. “I’m honestly interested in what my fellow Oregonians have to say about that.”

“All I know for sure is that we need someone with leadership and vision so that folks from all over the state can come together to get us back on track,” he adds.

He declined to say when he moved back to Oregon. For at least two years, he has been visiting his family farm in Yamhill, removing the cherry orchard to make way for cider apples.

Kristof, 62, who attended Harvard and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, is perhaps best known for his columns on international human rights abuses, including sex trafficking, sweat shops and child marriage. He won an international reporting Pulitzer in 1990 (along with his his wife, Sheryl WuDunn) for covering the Tiananmen Square protests in China, then another Pulitzer for commentary in 2006 for columns on genocide in Darfur.

But last year, he and WuDunn authored a book, Tightrope, on the failures of the American dream, focusing in part on the stories of childhood friends from Yamhill County, many of whom fell into poverty and drug addiction.

WW published an excerpt from Tightrope early in 2020. In an interview with WW then, Kristof said both political parties had abandoned the working class to despair and early deaths. “This is not just a Trump problem or just a Republican problem,” he said. “Both parties over 50 years have their fingerprints on policies that were disastrous for a lot of working-class Americans. Mass incarceration is one example.”

Related: “Tightrope” Is Painful and Merciless in Its Depiction of a Failed America. It’s Also a Must-Read.

Kristof’s interest in the fate of Oregon appears to have taken a new turn: He’s weighing whether he should lead it.

The Democratic primary for governor, only the second in more than two decades not to include an incumbent or former governor, is wide open. Yet an outsider may still face an uphill battle.

Related: For Just the Second Time in 25 Years, the Oregon Governor’s Mansion Is Up for Grabs. Here Are Four Ways the Race Could Go.

State Treasurer Tobias Read, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Service Employees International Union leader Melissa Unger, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle are among those weighing a run in the Democratic primary. (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to the co-owner of WW’s parent company.)

Related: In an Unusual Move, Union Leader Floats a Run for Oregon Governor

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