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Election officials reject Kristof candidacy for governor, citing lack of residency in Oregon

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By Dillon Mullan/Oregon Capital Bureau — The Oregon Elections Division rejected Nicholas Kristof’s attempt to file his candidacy for Governor Thursday, Jan. 6, citing a requirement for candidates to reside in the state for three years prior to the election.

Although he grew up in Yamhill and has repeatedly said he considers it to be his home, Kristof has spent most of his adult life as a resident of New York, where he voted in the 2020 election.

In August, his attorneys at Perkins and Coie released a legal memorandum, insisting he meets Oregon’s three-year residency requirement — citing court opinions, some of them more than 100 years old, to counter the argument that living and voting in New York disqualifies Kristof from being considered an Oregon resident.

But the Oregon Elections Division and Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, also a Democrat, reached a different conclusion.

“Until late 2020 or early 2021, Mr. Kristof lived in New York and has for the past 20 years,” Fagan said at a news conference Thursday morning. “Until recently, he was employed in New York. He received his mail at his New York address. He filed income taxes in New York. And perhaps most importantly, Mr. Kristof voted as a resident of New York for 20 years, including — and this is important — as recently as November 2020.”

Kristof announced his campaign and began raising money in October, but he did not attempt to file with the Oregon secretary of state’s office until Dec. 20. His campaign has already has raised over $2.5 million from more than 5,500 donors. Fagan said Thursday her office gave the Kristof campaign two weeks — until Monday, Jan. 3 — to submit evidence to support his qualification.

“Mr. Kristof provided a variety of sentiments and statements that he has made over the years, which we expect are genuine sentiments about his love for Oregon,” Fagan said. “Mr. Kristof also said that he filed income taxes in Oregon in 2019 and 2020, but he didn’t provide any documentation whatsoever.”

Responding to the decision at a press conference Thursday afternoon, Kristof said he did not provide the state with income tax records because it did not specifically ask for them.

“We do expect to give you that. I believe it’s customary to do that in the spring, around Tax Day,” Kristof said. “We didn’t provide the documentation because she did not ask for them.”

Kristof is appealing the decision in circuit court. A decision on that appeal is due by March 17, when clerks begin printing ballots for the Democratic primary in May.

Other Democratic candidates for governor this year include House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland and state Treasurer Tobias Read of Beaverton.

In a letter to the secretary of state’s office, Kristof’s attorneys said there has only been one Oregon court case that considered the question of whether voter registration determines residency, over a state House seat in 1974. A Marion County judge ruled that “the question of domicile is largely one of intent,” a precedent that supports Kristof, who has owned property in Yamhill County since 1993.

During his press conference, Kristof characterized the ruling as a political, not legal, decision.

“My willingness to challenge the status quo is the reason state officials want to toss me from the ballot,” Kristof said. “This was a political decision, not one based on the law.”

Fagan insisted her office reviewed Kristof as it would have any other candidate.

“In the end, our election officials told me it wasn’t even a close call,” Fagan said. “And while there have been creative legal arguments and an impressive PR campaign, given the evidence, I venture that most Oregonians who are paying attention have reached the same conclusion.”

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