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Secretary of state: Supreme Court should decide Kristof eligibility soon

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Oregon Capital Bureau

The Oregon Supreme Court is now more likely to take up the question of whether former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof is eligible to run for governor.

In a Tuesday filing, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan agreed with Kristof’s lawyers that the question needs to be resolved by the top court soon.

Fagan ruled Kristof has not lived in Oregon long enough to run for governor on Thursday, Jan. 6, largely because he had registered and voted in New York while working for the Times. Kristof challenged the ruling with the court the next day, arguing he considers his home to be Oregon, where he was raised, owns property, and has returned for summers for the past 30 years.

“The Secretary’s priority is building trust with Oregonians by maintaining elections processes that are prompt, predictable, and fair. In this case, that means having an accurate May 2022 primary ballot for Oregon voters that includes all qualified candidates,” Fagan’s filing said.

Oregon ballots must be printed by March 17. In her filing, Fagan said the parties have agreed that Kristof’s brief will be due on Jan. 14, her response will be due on Jan. 20, and Kristof’s reply will be due on Jan. 26.

“That schedule would ensure that the proceeding can be submitted by or shortly after the end of January, including oral argument on January 31 or February 1 if the court chooses. Most critically, the Secretary asks this court to issue a final decision before March 17, 2022, the deadline for finalizing the list of candidates for the primary ballot, so that ballots can be printed and mailed on time,” Fagan’s filing said.

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.

The supreme court must now decide whether to accept the case or make Kristof start his challenge in Marion County Circuit Court.

“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, Jan. 6. “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 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.

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