While he awaits the court’s decision, Nick Kristof continues to campaign and raise money in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor of Oregon.
Nick Kristof (right), the Democrat running for governor of Oregon, is being questioned about whether he has lived in the state long enough to qualify for office. (Ron Cooper/The Oregon Capital Chronicle)
Nick Kristof’s actions over the past two decades prove he was a resident of New York through December 2020 and ineligible to run for governor of Oregon this year, according to a legal filing in Oregon Supreme Court Thursday by the Secretary of State. Shamiya Fajan.
Fagan said Kristof had not made it clear that he was a resident of Oregon at the time the framers wanted him to — three years before the November 2022 elections. She said Kristoff’s arguments would allow someone to be elected governor of Oregon but live elsewhere or even be a governor of two states. at same time.
The 70-page memo submitted by the Oregon Department of Justice Thursday was the work of Oregon Attorney General Benjamin Guttman and three assistant attorney generals, who have urged judges to ensure the rules are applied equally to all candidates.
Kristof took his case to the Supreme Court after Fagan’s office decided he was ineligible to take part in this year’s ballot to run for governor. He wants to overturn her decision, and soon county staffers need to determine the ballot papers for the primaries by mid-March.
With the deadline approaching, the Supreme Court is expected to rule late this month or early next month whether Kristof, who now lives on his family’s farm outside the rural community of Yamhill, meets the three-year requirement in the Oregon Constitution.
The court’s ruling can influence hundreds of decisions each year by state and local election officials, who must determine whether candidates for various positions meet residency requirements.
“If Oregonians are to have confidence in their elections, the rules governing minimum qualifications for office must apply equally to all potential candidates, regardless of status, fundraising or popularity,” Fagan’s file said.
New York or Oregon
Before Fagan notified Christophe that he was ineligible to run for governor on January 6, he was the front-runner in the Democratic primary to replace limited-term Governor Kate Brown. His residency has been in doubt since before he applied to run, as he spent most of his life living and working in New York.
Kristof and a team of attorneys from the Democratic law firm Perkins Coe argued that he had always been an Oregon resident, and that voters, not election officials, should decide whether he belonged on the ballot or at the governor’s mansion.
According to the Fagan dossier, election officials considered Christophe’s vote in November 2020 in New York to be the most significant in the decision to exclude him from the ballot. Christophe registered to vote in New York in 2000 and did not register in Oregon until December 2020.
In an affidavit, he described his New York registration as a matter of “appropriateness,” justifying that he was likely to be in New York for the election, but said he later cast his vote in New York by mail from Yamhill Farm.
This argument, Fagan’s file said, is “meaningless in light of Oregon’s well-established and convenient mail-order voting system, which easily allows Oregon voters to receive their votes anywhere in the world.”
“It was more convenient, if not more convenient, to vote by mail in Oregon than at his home in Yamhill as Yamhill County voters were considering important issues,” she continued. “But he didn’t, because he was based in New York.”
In his legal filings, Christophe repeatedly referred to his fundraising and supposed popularity among voters. He has raised over $2.6 million for his campaign. That’s a higher amount than any other Democratic candidate, and more than any other candidate, but Betsy Johnson, the former state senator who is now running without any party affiliation.
State attorneys wrote that the court should reject any suggestion of fundraising prowess or political influence.
“The election department and local election officials apply the same rule to all candidates regardless of how well they know or not, and no matter how many dwellings they own, whether they own housing at all, or if they are homeless,” the filing said. Adopting the plaintiff’s proposed rule would seem to lead to a serious injustice, in that ‘voters decide’ for well-resourced and well-connected candidates, and other candidates subject to stricter criteria.
Fagan and state attorneys also contested Christophe’s argument that he had always been a resident of Oregon because of his deep emotional connections to the state. They wrote that election officials cannot make consistent and fair decisions about what is in a candidate’s head.
Kristof has maintained that he never intended to “give up” his family’s farm, but state attorneys say his decisions to buy a home in New York in 1999, register to vote in New York in 2000 and pay income taxes in New York from 1999 through at least 2020 show a clear intent to give up. About Yamhill.
“For two decades, the New York plaintiff voted, held a New York driver’s license, owned a primary residence in New York, lived and worked in New York, paid income taxes in New York, and sent his children to New York public schools,” the legal filing said.
Public schools are relevant because New York provides public education only to residents of the school district, according to state legal filings. The New York City Department of Education lists tuition fees that are comparable to college tuition for nonresidents attending public schools in one of the city’s five boroughs.
Kristof argued, through his attorney, that the residency requirements in the Oregon constitution are a relic of a racist and xenophobic past, and that the state’s founders used residency requirements to prevent Chinese and black immigrants from engaging in politics. They argued that barring Kristof and others with multiple homes from running for office would prevent college students, the homeless, immigrant workers, members of the military, and others from having a voice in Oregon’s politics.
In response, state attorneys wrote that any historian would find racist or xenophobic statements made by state delegates at the 1857 Oregon Constitutional Convention—but that such statements had nothing to do with the residence requirement itself.
The historical record also shows that the country’s founders discussed an amendment that would abolish the three-year residency requirement, with proponents of the amendment arguing, Christophe said, that the choice should be left to the electorate. One delegate referred to the requirement as “shackles” to be placed on the people of Oregon.
Delegates to that conference eventually decided to reject the amendment, while retaining the three-year residency requirement. They also added a similar three-year residency requirement for Oregon Supreme Court justices, which was not in the original draft of the state constitution, according to a state filing.
“As they saw it, the ‘office of value’ should be filled by a person who resided in the state of Oregon and had some stake in the political and civic life here,” the suit read. “The controversy over residency requirements shows that delegates intend to take a test that would not allow the election of a person who remained resident in another country.”
Kristof has continued campaigning and fundraising since Fagan disqualified him on January 6. He’s raised less than $100,000 in the past two weeks, according to campaign funding records.
More than half of that amount came from Reed Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, who contributed $50,000 on January 16. The campaign returned the money to three donors — $10,000 to New York psychotherapist Jill Sinai, $1,000 to New York PR agency chief Richard Edelman and $1,000 to New York PR agency head Richard Edelman and television actor Nick Wechsler — after Christophe was disqualified.
His campaign reported spending $75,000 in the same period, including more than $19,000 on consulting services from a Washington, D.C. firm and $10,000 on web development for a company in Arizona.
The campaign also paid Kristof $730 for the miles on January 13. This filing recorded the candidate’s address as a Portland PO Box.
Kristof has crossed the state since his dismissal, posting frequent photos on his campaign and personal Twitter pages of interactions with Oregonians in Bend, Eugene, Portland and Salem. He’s on the North Coast this week, meeting voters in Clatsop County.
The Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of the State Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Liz Zeitz with questions: [email protected] Follow the Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.