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Nicholas Kristof, mulling run for Oregon governor, releases legal opinion attesting his eligibility

The New York Times columnist and his lawyers say he is fully eligible to run for office in Oregon despite voting in New York in 2020.

YAMHILL, Ore. — As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explores a run for Oregon governor, he and his attorneys have released a legal memo attesting he is eligible to run after Willamette Week raised questions about his residency status.

At issue is Article V, Section 2 of the state constitution, which specifies that a candidate for governor must have been an Oregon resident for three years prior to the election. 

As Willamette Week first reported, Kristof voted as a New York resident in Nov. 2020. He registered to vote in Oregon on Dec. 28, 2020, which is less than three years prior to the next gubernatorial election set to happen on Nov. 8, 2022. 

“To vote in New York, a person must attest, i.e. swear under penalty of perjury, to being a ‘resident’ of New York, In November 2020, Mr. Kristof attested that his ‘permanent and principal home’ was in New York,” elections lawyer Greg Chaimov told Willamette Week.

Chaimov's assertion is not accurate, Kristof's attorneys told KGW. New York allows voters to register and vote there simply if they have a residence in the state — even if it's a secondary or vacation home. They argue while Kristof could not have voted in two states, he could have legally been considered a resident of both. 

In response to those concerns, Kristof and attorneys with Perkins Coie law firm released a 15-page legal memo arguing Kristof's case: despite voting in New York last year, he has always maintained his status as an Oregonian and remains one today, and is eligible to serve as governor. 

Kristof's attorneys, including Misha Isaak, former general counsel to Gov. Brown, said his voting in New York in 2020 does not mean he wasn't legally a resident of Oregon, only that he maintained residences in both states. 

"New York law does not require a voter to register in the jurisdiction of his or her principal residence. Rather, under New York law, a voter with two residences may register in either place," the legal memo states.

The memo also cites Kristof's Oregon childhood and repeated references in his writing to Oregon being his home, and his years of investment in and work on his family's Yamhill farm. It also says Kristof has taken a leave of absence from his job at the New York Times to explore a possible gubernatorial run. 

The memo concludes, "Nicholas Kristof is an Oregonian. That is obvious. He grew up here, he is present here regularly, he owns and pays taxes on real property here. He has a bedroom here. He manages a farm and an agricultural business here. He has hiked the entire length of Oregon along the Pacific Crest Trail, sent his children to OMSI camps, backpacked around Mount Hood, eaten at Mo’s in Lincoln City, and grieved the loss of family members and friends as part of a community here. He has done all of that over decades. In 1857, the delegates of the Oregon Constitutional Convention worried that a stranger to our state who knew nothing of its problems might run for governor. Suffice it to say: Nicholas Kristof is not who they were worried about."