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Kristof asks Oregon Supreme Court to keep him on the ballot

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The Democrat candidate for governor accuses the political establishment of working against him.

By Jim Redden

Oregon Capital Bureau

Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof asked the Oregon Supreme Court to keep his endangered campaign for governor alive on Friday.

The day after Secretary of State Shemia Fagan ruled he was not eligible to run for governor, Kristof’s lawyers asked the court to keep his name on the ballot, citing a March 17 deadline to print ballots that would be hard to meet through the normal appeals process.

“The effect of her decision is that Kristof will be excluded from the ballot unless there is a timely judicial intervention,” the filing said. “Kristof thus petitions this Court for a peremptory or alternative writ of mandamus requiring the Secretary of State to accept his declaration of candidacy and submit his name for printing on the primary ballot. With voting rights under unprecedented attack around the country, fidelity to democratic principles —  especially to the right of the public to choose its government — has never been more important.”

Fagan ruled Kristof off the ballot on Thursday, citing a constitutional requirement for candidates to reside in the state for three years prior to the election. She noted he had lived in New York and voted there while working for the Times as recently as 2020.

Kristof had argued that he grew up in Yamhill, and considers Oregon to be his home. He has returned there every summer for the past 30 years, has built an addition on his family farm for his wife and children, and has paid taxes in Oregon since 2019.

Kristof’s lawyers filed a nine-page petition and 56-page supporting memorandum with the court asking it to keep his name on the ballot on Friday. They argue his candidacy is valid and could be unfairly prevented by the approaching ballot printing deadline. Otherwise Kristof will have to start his appeal in Marion County Circuit Court and proceed through the Oregon Court of Appeals before reaching the Oregon Supreme Court.

Kristof filed as a Democrat for governor on Dec. 20. Fagan’s office, which regulates elections, sent him a letter the next day asking for more proof of his Oregon residency.

“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 responded several hours later during a press conference that characterized the ruling as a political, not legal, decision. He accused Fagan, a fellow Democrat, of being part of an establishment that favors other Democrat candidates for governor such as former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and State Treasurer Tobias Read.

“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.”

In a previous letter to Fagan’s office, Kristof’s attorney’s 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.

Dillon Mullan contributed to this story.

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