Secretary of State Shemia Fagan Extends No Olive Branch to Former Candidate Nicholas Kristof

Meanwhile, a subdued Kristof muted his previous criticism of Oregon’s “political class.”

Nicholas Kristof, former New York Times reporter and columnist, next to his wife Sheryl WuDunn on Feb. 17 in Portland, at the end of his bid for the governorship of Oregon. (John Rudoff/Photo Credit: ©John Rudoff 2022)

After the Oregon Supreme Court this morning unanimously upheld her decision to kick Democratic candidate for governor Nicholas Kristof off the May ballot, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan sharply criticized Kristof for his attacks on her.

Following Fagan’s Jan. 6 determination that the former New York Times journalist did not meet Oregon’s three-year residency requirement for candidates for governor, Kristof decried the state’s top elections official’s decision as the actions of Oregon’s “political class” and “grounded in politics.”

It was a thinly veiled shot at the labor unions that supported Fagan’s candidacy and that support former House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) in the Democratic primary.

“Unfortunately, some people did cross a line here,” Fagan said this morning at a Zoom press conference.

“This decision was about treating everyone equally under the rules,” she continued. “Baseless attacks that the decision was corrupt, politically motivated or biased are wrong. Increasing harassment in attacks on election workers here in Oregon and across the country often begin with empty allegations of bias or corruption. We’re seeing an increase of harassment targeting election workers, and even death threats toward county clerks right here in Oregon....I just want to urge candidates and elected officials and members of the media to carefully consider the impact of your words.”

If the most strategic choice for Oregon Democrats right now is to seek to align themselves with Kristof, who in his brief candidacy raised millions from donors mostly new to Oregon politics, Fagan did not appear to be participating in that effort.

She did not use Kristof’s name when describing some of the criticisms she faced last month as “baseless accusations” or across the “line” or “just plain wrong” initially. But when pressed, Fagan did make clear she objected specifically to Kristof’s attacks on her.

“Kristof...was wrong,” she said. “The Supreme Court today unanimously affirmed a decision that was made by the elections officials in this case and the process they use and the legal standard that they applied.”

At a brief press conference of his own this morning, Kristof still appeared stunned by the court’s decision. He said he hadn’t had time to think about whether he’d endorse one of his erstwhile rivals, Kotek or State Treasurer Tobias Read, and hadn’t yet decided what he’ll do with the $1.6 million still in his campaign treasury.

Although Kristof’s brief to the Supreme Court raised possible objections to Fagan’s ruling under federal law, he said he would not pursue that route, nor would he ask the court to reconsider its ruling, as is his right.

“The Supreme Court has spoken,” Kristof said, echoing a statement he’d released earlier. “I respect the court’s decision and will not pursue this further.”

In response to reporters’ questions, Kristof said he did not know what he’d do next, except that he plans to stay involved in seeking solutions to the many challenges Oregon faces.

And when asked if today’s decision reflected a continuation of the state’s “political class” against him, he resisted doubling down and instead demurred. “I respect the Supreme Court. I respect their decision making,” Kristof said. “I’m disappointed by their ruling, but I honor their service and their integrity.”

Correction: WW incorrectly reported that Kristof had 10 days to refund the donations, donate to other political action committees or change the office he was seeking. Instead, he has 10 days to change the purpose of his campaign PAC if he decides to seek another office. He can still refund donations or donate to other political action committees from his existing PAC

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