New York Times Columnist and Oregon Gubernatorial Hopeful Nick Kristof Faces Residency Questions

Oregon governors must have resided in the state for three years prior to election.

Yamhill County Landscape SON OF THE SOIL: Nicholas Kristof hails from Yamhill County. (Henry Cromett)

What the Oregon Constitution says about candidates for governor: Article V, Section 2 states, “No person except a citizen of the United States, shall be eligible to the Office of Governor, nor shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained the age of thirty years, and who shall not have been three years next preceding his election, a resident within this State.” (Emphasis added.)

Why it matters: In 2022, Oregon will hold an election for a truly open governor’s seat for the first time in 20 years. One of the potential Democratic candidates, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, grew up in Yamhill County but spent most of his adult life away from Oregon. WW reported last month that Kristof is mulling a run—but the three-year residency requirement may be a problem for him.

What we know: Elections officials in New York say Kristof voted as a New York resident in the November 2020 general election. Records show he then registered to vote in Oregon on Dec. 28, 2020. That is less than three years before the Nov. 8, 2022, general election date that will determine Oregon’s next governor. When Kristof bought property in Yamhill County last year, he used his longtime home address in Westchester County, N.Y., for correspondence.

What others say: Greg Chaimov, a lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine who is frequently involved in elections issues, says he’s hard pressed to see how Kristof can qualify. “It would appear that Mr. Kristof would have a hard time establishing that he has been a resident of Oregon for the required period of time,” says Chaimov, who formerly served as the Legislature’s top lawyer. “A significant issue would be whether Mr. Kristof were registered to vote in a state other than Oregon between November 2019 and December 2020. Registration typically requires residency, and you can’t be a resident of two places for election purposes.”

State laws say no single factor determines residency for political candidates. Some indicators: where a person pays income taxes, obtains routine services such as mail delivery and health care, and conducts a social life. But the rules can be ambiguous. WW previously raised questions about the residency of such candidates as GOP candidate for governor Chris Dudley (2010) and Portland mayoral candidate Charlie Hales (2012). In both cases, state officials took a permissive view of the candidates’ residency.

What Kristof says: Kristof confirmed he voted in New York last year but calls questions about his residency “ridiculous.” He notes he has owned land here since 1993, began paying income taxes here in 2019, holds an Oregon drivers license, and has always considered himself an Oregonian. “Insiders always want to fix the political game to keep out those they don’t control,” Kristof says. “I want to help fix the state I love. I’m as Oregonian as they come, and the rest is politics.”

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.