Nick Kristof Ineligible to Run for Oregon Governor
Apparently, New York and Oregon are not the same place.
In October 2021, Nick Kristof wrote his last column for the New York Times, where he had worked for 37 years, explaining that he had a higher calling.
I am giving up a job I love to run for governor of Oregon.
It’s fair to question my judgment. When my colleague William Safire was asked if he would give up his Times column to be secretary of state, he replied, “Why take a step down?”
I’ve written regularly about the travails of my beloved hometown, Yamhill, Ore., which has struggled with the loss of good working-class jobs and the arrival of meth. Every day I rode to Yamhill Grade School and then Yamhill-Carlton High School on the No. 6 bus. Yet today more than one-quarter of my pals on my old bus are dead from drugs, alcohol and suicide — deaths of despair.
The political system failed them. The educational system failed them. The health system failed them. And I failed them. I was the kid on the bus who won scholarships, got the great education — and then went off to cover genocides half a world away.
While I’m proud of the attention I gave to global atrocities, it sickened me to return from humanitarian crises abroad and find one at home. Every two weeks, we lose more Americans from drugs, alcohol and suicide than in 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan — and that’s a pandemic that the media hasn’t adequately covered and our leaders haven’t adequately addressed.
As I was chewing on all this, the Covid pandemic made suffering worse. One friend who had been off drugs relapsed early in the pandemic, became homeless and overdosed 17 times over the next year. I’m terrified for her and for her child.
I love journalism, but I also love my home state. I keep thinking of Theodore Roosevelt’s dictum: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,” he said. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
I’m bucking the journalistic impulse to stay on the sidelines because my heart aches at what classmates have endured and it feels like the right moment to move from covering problems to trying to fix them.
I hope to convince some of you that public service in government can be a path to show responsibility for communities we love, for a country that can do better. Even if that means leaving a job I love.
Even though he lived in New York far longer than he lived in Oregon (so far as I can tell, he left after high school for Harvard, went on to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and worked for the Times until stepping down) it’s noble enough to care about the community where his old friends lived. And, after 37 years, it may simply have been time for something new.
Alas, he seems to have been campaigning for more than a year despite being ineligible to run, on account of not actually living in Oregon.
The Oregonian (“Democratic hopeful Nick Kristof doesn’t qualify to run for governor, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan says“):
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Nick Kristof does not meet Oregon’s residency requirement to qualify to run for governor, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announced Thursday morning.
Kristof grew up in rural Oregon, has owned property in the state for decades and returned to Oregon nearly every summer while working as a New York Times columnist in New York and abroad. He attested that he’s been a resident of Oregon long enough to run for its highest office.
In ruling he has not, elections officials in Fagan’s office focused on Kristof’s record of voting in New York state as recently as the 2020 general election.But they said their case was bolstered by his decision to maintain his New York drivers license through December 2020 and to continue paying New York income taxes well past the November 2019 deadline for a 2022 gubernatorial candidate to establish residency in Oregon.
“When determining residency for elections purposes, the place where a person votes is particularly powerful, because voting is the center of engaged citizenship,” elections director Deborah Scroggin and compliance specialist Lydia Plukchi wrote in a letter to Kristof outlining their findings. “The fact that you voted in New York strongly indicates that you viewed it as the place where you intended to permanently return when you were away.”
Scroggin and Plukchi noted that Kristof only registered to vote in Oregon on Dec. 28, 2020. Although Kristof paid income taxes in Oregon in 2019 and 2020, “You did not explain whether you filed Oregon income tax returns as a nonresident, a part-year resident, or a full-year resident,” Scroggin and Plukchi wrote.
Kristof can appeal the secretary of state’s decision to a circuit court and he said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that he plans to do so.
“We’re going to continue campaigning for governor and we’re going to win that, too,” Kristof said.
Kristof called the elections officials’ decision “troubling,” suggested that politics were involved and said Oregonians who feel ignored by other politicians should get the chance to vote for him.
“As you all know, I come from outside the political establishment and I don’t owe insiders anything,” Kristof said. “They view my campaign as a threat.”
Now, the notion that the Secretary of State of Oregon—or the Oregon political establishment—is scared of Kristof strikes me as rather implausible. Her letter cites Article V, Section 2 of the state constitution,
Qualifications of Governor. 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. The minimum age requirement of this section does not apply to a person who succeeds to the office of Governor under section 8a of this Article. [Constitution of 1859; Amendment proposed by H.J.R. 52, 1973, and adopted by the people Nov. 5, 1974]
Her letter notes that the constitution doesn’t actually define residency but applicable laws offer up a series of considerations to factor in. Her assessment that Kristof working, residing, and voting in New York was an indication that it was his primary residence strikes me as more than reasonable; indeed, it’s rather obvious.
Kristof’s counter is, well, silly:
Kristof and his team of lawyers had urged Fagan to heavily weigh his nearly lifelong ties to Oregon and his characterization of Oregon as “home” in multiple articles and books over the years.
Now, it’s true that some states are laxer in this regard than others. Mitt Romney has been a governor of Massachusetts and a Senator from Utah. Hillary Clinton, who so far as I can tell had never previously lived in New York, successfully ran to be one of its Senators while living in the White House. And Dick Cheney was able to skirt the Constitutional requirement that Electors not be allowed to vote for a President and Vice President from the same state by claiming he was from Wyoming, which he had represented in Congress for many years, rather than Texas, where he was making his living at the time.
But, aside from having what amounted to a vacation home there, Kristof hadn’t lived in Oregon since he was a child. That Oregon never left his heart is hardly proof of residency.
Kristof’s better argument is that Oregon has traditionally played fast and loose on residency:
In an email to a lawyer for the secretary of state in December, one of Kristof’s lawyers, Misha Isaak, pointed to a previous example of the Elections Division’s “deferential treatment of candidates’ views of their own residency,” specifically Wes Cooley when he was a candidate for the state Senate in 1992. Cooley moved a trailer onto a property so he could qualify to run after district boundaries were redrawn and was allowed to run on that basis.
Current elections officials and Fagan took a different approach from former Democratic Secretary of State Phil Keisling, who in 1992 said that although the trailer might not be habitable and Cooley failed to take other steps that would establish residency such as obtaining an Oregon drivers license, “absent sufficient clear and convincing evidence, we must place substantial weight on Mr. Cooley’s sworn affidavit that he intended for the trailer to be his residence.”
“In evaluating whether a person meets Oregon residency requirements, we consider a ‘residence’ to be a place in which a person’s habitation is fixed and to which, when they are absent, they intend to return,” Scroggin and Plukchi wrote. “While a person’s statement of their intent is significant, we also consider a person’s prior acts.”
In the only Oregon court case in which a candidate’s eligibility to run centered on where he was registered to vote, the Marion County Court overturned then-Secretary of State Clay Myers’ finding that the candidate — Bill Wyatt — was ineligible, lawyers Misha Isaak, Thomas R. Johnson and Jeremy Carp wrote in a letter to the secretary of state on Monday.
The Cooley case is interesting but one imagines that intrastate boundaries are less significant than state boundaries. There was no question that Cooley was an Oregonian. (He was also a fraudster, but that’s a whole different issue.)
Now, I happen to think the whole thing rather silly. If Oregonians want to make a New York Times columnist their governor, they should have the right to do so. He has apparently raised a massive amount of money and, presumably, has solid name recognition.
I get both sides of this. On the one hand, it’s not as if he has no ties to Oregon. On the other, our laws should discourage parachute candidacies. Clinton I can sort of buy, since they’d bought the home a year earlier and they clearly intended to make it their primary home as soon as they left the White House, but NY probably should have made her wait as well. When you start stretching rules to achieve preferred outcomes, the end result is usually that eventually you have no rules at all.
This is reflective of Kristof’s bigger issue: he is running to be chief executive of a state while having absolutely zero executive experience of any sort. He’s jumping right from “writer who works alone” to someone responsible for actually running a state with millions of residents, hundreds or thousands of municipalities, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of businesses, and so on. The leap across that chasm is too far, and the fact that he thinks he can make it in one jump just shows his complete misunderstanding of the job. And this residency fiasco illustrates his hubris: poor preparation and poor execution, blindsided by “legalisms”. Another word for legalisms is “the laws that a Governor is charged with enforcing.” And preparation and execution is literally the primary job of “Chief Executive”.
I have been an admirer of Kristopher for decades for his writing and good works, but this whole thing is overreach. If by some miracle his appeal works, and by a second miracle he wins, he will be an inexperienced Governor hopelessly out of his depth.
You mention Hillary Clinton’s New York run for Senate and it is a good counter example. She was running for a legislative, not an executive, position and she had been deeply involved in legislation from the time she was a student activist. Leading up to her run she was an integral part of the Clinton administration’s congressional arm twisting and persuasion brigade. And she did her research and groundwork on the residency requirements. She knew the White House couldn’t be considered her permanent residence and early on the Clinton’s moved their domicile to New York State. She voted their in both local and state elections. She became active in local issues near their residence and began to host fund raisers and think tanks and so forth in various NYS venues. They based their charity in NYC, and not in a tony neighborhood but in Harlem. I lived in NY State at the time she announced she was running and by the her name was regularly in had been in NY State news on a regular basis. And of course we are talking Hillary Clinton here, whose preparation and attention to detail was so overwhelming it was considered a negative in her ability to connect with the average person. The Republicans, and perhaps her Democratic rivals in the primary, attempted to challenge her residency but there wasn’t even the slightest crack for them to get a hold on.
I think we have to understand Kristof’s surprise at this information. It’s the first time in years someone has actually fact checked him.
(This joke and truth bomb was shamelessly stolen from Twitter)
How common are laws like this? Certainly Illinois didn’t have anything like it when Alan Keyes suddenly jumped in the 2004 Senate race. If there was anywhere I’d expect such laws to exist, it would be in the Southern states, since that’s where the term “carpetbagging” originates; yet until now I didn’t even know there were such laws anywhere (and North-to-South carpetbagging still happens quite often today, though usually the candidates take some time to start planting their roots).
Let me say also that Kristof’s failure to find out the relevant laws of the state before jumping in is itself kind of disqualifying in my view.
One presumes his lawyers, looking at the almost-nonexistent case law, concluded that he wouldn’t have much trouble meeting muster. There apparently wasn’t a way to get a ruling without filing for candidacy, which he presumably couldn’t have done while still employed by the NYT.
God, what an arrogant bastard. I’d be voting against him for this fiasco alone. Didn’t Kristof or one of the people surrounding him even think to check on the subject? Or did they just assume that all the chips would fall their way?
(I bet whoever was advising him said “oh, but you’ve owned land in Oregon for more that three years and originally came from here, that’ll be enough. And came up with that singularly stupid argument “hey, you referred to Oregon as “home” in your NYT articles! Yeah, that’s great evidence!”)
So aside from being careless about the regulations himself, Kristof also picks people who can’t legal their way out of a paper bag.
@James Joyner: This is one of those cases where if you’re doing your planning accurately and there are fat grey lines in legal definitions, you do as much as you can to make sure you fall definitely in the “absolutely defined” area. Would it really have killed Kristof to actually physically live in Oregon for three years, vote in Oregon for three years, and paid his taxes in Oregon for three years? In that way there would have been no question as to whether he was qualified or not.
As it is, Kristof comes off as a real “wagahai” character. (Oh, I’m so fantastic and so necessary to the State of Oregon that everyone will automatically interpret the rules in my favour.)
And is indicative of his approach to writing about a number of subjects (including, but not limited to, sex work and trafficing).
If he’s being truthful in his farewell column, he didn’t decide he wanted to run for governor until the pandemic hit. It seems like he moved fairly expeditiously at that point but, yeah, you think he’d at least have voted in Oregon in 2020 and gotten a state drivers license.
OK, that went so far above my head even the google can’t help. Unless you mean that Kristof is a cat?
@James Joyner: One of the other side effects of Trump’s presidency is that it has encouraged far too many idiots to believe that name recognition == qualified to run X. Why does Kristof think that a career of churning out op-ed articles for the NYT make him qualified to run a state? Why doesn’t he work his way up through the system? Run for mayor of a small town and demonstrate he’s got the set of abilities to deal with all the players? (negotiations, diplomacy, balancing acts…all the non-fancy but necessary and routine stuff.) Then, after showing he can handle a city of 30,000 or so, move up to a bigger city and then finally to governor?
There’s such a thing as “paying your dues”. Yes, name recognition helps smooth the way, but not completely. And most people resent having some outside bastard catapulted in on top of them who thinks just because he had name recognition for pontificating on TV (or in this case, in a newspaper) he’s automatically gifted with all the necessary skills.
Hell, I’d rather elect Kim Kardashian. Doesn’t she at least have a law degree?
Sorry to switch to technical campaign jargon, but this is what we in the business call ‘a real dumb-dumb move.”
Elections–especially primaries!–have been won or lost on matters of residency. Even if Oregon’s barely-existent residency laws would have clearly allowed him to run, this is major self-own right out of the gate. This was easy oppo material waiting for exploitation.
@MarkedMan: “Wagahai” is the term “I” but of someone waaaay up on the social ladder (Japanese imperial court noble, IIRC). Hence Natsume Soseki’s use of it in the title for comic effect: “Wagahai wa neko de aru.”
(Yeah, I know my references make no sense to most people….mourn. It’s like trying to explain the comment in Les Enfants de Paradis “Je dis “vous” avec ma mere et “vous” avec ma femme”. Which translates literally as “I say “you” with my mother and “you” with my wife” and makes no sense unless you understand the classifications of formality in french and the whole thing about what “tutoyer” (moving from using “vous” (formal) to using “tu” (informal)) means in terms of a relationship. )
(A joke that requires a page of footnotes to explain it is unfortunately not a joke that travels across cultures. Yet another reason why tragedy is universal and comedy….isn’t.)
Where would his campaign staff and if successful his gubernatorial staff have come from? He’d be a stranger in a strange land.
Likely the state party would have staffed his administration. State chair becomes chief of staff, gubernatorially-appointed cabinet positions would go to generous donors. You know, the perfect recipe for an outsider shaking up the system.
@grumpy realist: Kristof studied law at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholars, earning “first class honors.” But apparently would still have had to go to law school (he was planning to go back to Harvard to that) and decided instead to study Arabic at American University in Cairo and go into journalism.
And, no, Kardashian never went to law school. She passed something called the baby bar, which is somehow considered the equivalent of one year of law school, but not the actual California bar exam.
Shades of Richard the First. From the start, Kristof’s campaign had the air of paternalism. Oregon, a place that I love is troubled, forsooth, I will return to save it.
What’s that feeling?? Oh yes schadenfreude.
@James Joyner: “There apparently wasn’t a way to get a ruling without filing for candidacy, which he presumably couldn’t have done while still employed by the NYT.”
Sure. But you know what he could have done while working at the Times? Lived in Oregon for a year or two. It’s not like he was on the city council beat — he was a columnist, writing well-intentioned but agonizingly dull columns about international issues. He could have done that from Portland — or from his little farm. And maybe he’d even have learned a little bit about what it’s like to live in Oregon this century.
Indeed. Local party functionaries, ‘supplemented’ by Kristof’s New York friends. Not exactly Lenin returning to Russia is it? More a case of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’
The clueless fuckwit gave up one of the best gigs in journalism – a job, as you point out, he could have done as well from Portland or his so-called ranch. It’s hard to escape the suspicion that Nick didn’t really want to have to live out in the sticks.
@James Joyner: I suspect that whatever law Kristof studied at Oxford, it wasn’t U.S. law. And yeah, irregardless of the fact that English law and U.S. law are written in the same language (and we swiped a lot of our own law from them), they aren’t the same thing. I remember running into an attorney from Singapore who had to go back to law school here in the US to become qualified to take the bar.
I don’t know why this whole mess aggravates me so much, but this Kristof thing comes across like Marie Antoinette playing milkmaid at Le Trianon until she got bored and wandered off to do something else.
@Michael Reynolds: Assuming he loses his appeal, it will be interesting to see if he remains in Oregon or moves back to NYC.
I think he truly loves the idea of rural Oregon and his hometown but has long since outgrown them. The late Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard made a great living pining for small-town Moreland, Georgia but lived almost his entire adult life in Atlanta. It’s not like they don’t have typewriters in Moreland.
@James Joyner: Writers singing the joys of primitive rural life while living in urban areas have been around since, oh, Cicero. Either they pine for what they don’t have (the grass is greener on the other side of the fence syndrome) or they rough it out in rural arcadia for a few months/years, write a book about it, and then spend the rest of their lives living off the “bare front frontiersman” image. Thoreau certainly did.
The fact is, no one is going to sit down and scribble out one’s contribution to literature during all that wonderful exposed to nature experience. The best you can do is jot down impressions and notes. It’s only after returning back to the urban setting (or in Annie Dillard’s case, the university library) that all the experiences can be reconsidered, savoured, and artfully worked into the final result (essays, stories, and books.) Alexandra David-Neel certainly didn’t write her “Magic and Mystery in Tibet” while stuck in her hermitage on the side of a Himalayan mountain. It was only after she had returned to France and a more modern life.
Hence, much as I enjoy rural monologues and essays as well as the writers who have produced them, I’ve always had a feeling of slight dissonance when reading them.
Indeed. It is really sloppy. Especially since he could have residences in both NYC and Oregon, but just declare OR his primary residence and pay taxes accordingly (and change his drivers’ license).
On the one hand, I am not sure that any of that actually makes him more qualified (beyond that legality of it all) to be OR’s governor, but on the other, it is surely a reasonable minimal amount of effort.
@Neil Hudelson: Nick is still young. He can move back to Oregon develop his network and support and run in 4 years when the voters will look at the Dem primary ballot and ask…
This is an election for governor. The state residency qualification is set by the state constitution.
It’s not like when Mitt Romney moved to Utah or Hillary Clinton moved to New York or Alan Keyes moved to Illinois to run for the U.S. Senate, because the U.S. Constitution sets the qualifications to run for the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives. Under the Constitution, a Senator or Representative need only be an inhabitant of the state at the time of election. The states can’t impose longer residency requirements than that.
@James Joyner: Have you ever read Grizzard’s “My Daddy was a Pistol and I’m a Son of a Gun“?
From the Amazon page:
It is well worth the read. One of those times you need a break from all the serious reading you do, you could easily do worse than picking that one up.
@OzarkHillbilly: Oh, yeah. Pretty sure I own and have read all of Grizzard’s books, although it’s probably been 25 years. The wife, kids, and I even visited the Grizzard museum in Moreland passing through a few years back.
Rush Limbaugh made a career out of pandering to yokels and lived in Manhattan. . . sorry, like Trump he lived in Manhattan just one day less than six months per year, the remaining six months and a day in state income tax-free Florida.
I’m beginning to question Mr. Kristof’s sincerity. As I understand things he voted in NY and has a NY driver’s licenses yet claims to be a resident of OR. Also, he’s qualified despite zero experience in government because why? And this, “They view my campaign as a threat.” WTF? Is he related to Trump, distant cousin maybe? Speaking as a resident of Oregon I hope he’s not our next Democratic Gubernatorial nominee. I’ll vote 3rd party.
@Joshua K.: (Having re-read your statement I realise we’re saying the same thing.) Yes, the State of Oregon can’t impose longer residency requirements on candidates for Senator or House Representative than what the U.S. Constitution demands. For internal state positions not superseded by federal law, the state can do as it damn well pleases (within reason.) Really long residency periods (10 years or so) would probably be considered unconstitutional….but there is the fact that (running for governor) isn’t considered a “right” in the same class as (signing up for welfare). (In the case of the latter, considering that SCOTUS had a fit about a 1 year requirement, 3 years would be considered too long.)
(I haven’t looked at any of the case law since getting out of my Constitutional Law class umpteen years ago so this is all off the top of my head and IIRC.)
Getting in the weeds on this is residency requirements for Congressmen. It varies by state whether they have to live in their District when they file for election, when there are elected, or when they take office. In WA they are two Congresswomen who only moved into their Districts after winning their elections – though they did reside a few miles away in another Congressional District (Strickland, Jayapal). Totally allowed under WA RCW. Jayapal sold her Seattle house and is renting an apartment in her “new” District (family moved to the DC area). We’re about to see a shuffle of legal residences with redistricting as 2 current Congressman end up in the same District, or shifted to an unfavorable area, happens every 10 years. Nothing new. As for lily-white Progressive Portland (er, Oregon), there is no Lt Governor, the Secretary of State is the #2 position so this finding is above the usual state cabinet official. A Kansas Senator was supposedly renting a room from a friend as his KS “residence,” was a solid DC-area resident for decades.
@Richard Gardner: The states can’t impose requirements on members of Congress to live in their Congressional district, as long as they live within the state. That’s how the U.S. Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 2 is interpreted: “No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.” It says “Inhabitant of that State,” not district within the state, and the Qualifications Clause is generally interpreted to mean that the states can’t impose any more specific requirements beyond that.
If someone lives in Spokane and they want to run for Congress from a district in the Seattle area hundreds of miles away, they can do so and legally be elected and serve from the district they don’t live in, because they only have to be an inhabitant of the same state, not the district.