Kristof, Secretary of State each file arguments in Supreme Court battle over candidate’s eligibility

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — Nicholas Kristof and Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan each filed legal briefs this week for the pending Supreme Court case to determine Kristof’s eligibility to run for Governor of Oregon.

Kristof announced his candidacy in October, a couple weeks after ending his long career at The New York Times. But the campaign hit a speed bump earlier this month when Fagan announced that her office had rejected Kristof’s formal declaration of candidacy.

Oregon law requires candidates for governor to have been a resident of the state for at least three years before the election, and Fagan’s office concluded that although Kristof grew up in Oregon and owns property in Yamhill County, he was a New York resident until at least the end of 2020.

RELATED: Oregon attorney general asks court to quickly decide Kristof’s eligibility

Kristof’s petition

Kristof immediately vowed to appeal his case, and Fagan pledged to work to secure an expedited Supreme Court decision to resolve the issue ahead of the state’s March 17 deadline to begin printing ballots for the May primary.

In documents submitted earlier this week and posted online by his campaign, Kristof’s attorneys requested that the Court require Fagan to accept his candidate filing and add his name to the primary ballot.

Kristof’s petition reiterates his position that he never stopped being an Oregon resident while working in New York. It describes him as a frontrunner in the race, and argues that Oregonians should be able to decide whether to vote for him.

It also requests a decision as fast as possible, arguing that the legal battle is doing ongoing damage to his status in the race, stating that “the Secretary of State may have predetermined the outcome of the primary election—or at least put a thumb firmly on the scale—even if this Court reverses her decision.”

Kristof’s petition also argues that, for the purposes of ballot access, “resident” has never been defined by an Oregon court, and that Fagan’s decision to exclude him is therefore “a lone government official applying novel and untested legal reasoning.”

RELATED: Kristof vows to appeal, keep campaigning after Oregon Elections Division rejects his bid for governor

Fagan’s response

In a response filed Thursday on behalf of Fagan, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum asserted that Kristof was disqualified as part of a routine review process that applies to all candidates.

A person must be domiciled in Oregon to be a resident under the Constitution, the response argues, and a person legally has only one domicile at a time even if they own multiple homes.

Kristof was domiciled in New York, the response states, as evidenced by his New York driver’s license and voter registration (both of which he maintained through late 2020) and his payment of New York taxes.

“The Elections Division’s job is not to determine whether a candidate is sufficiently ‘Oregonian’ or whether a candidate subjectively feels that Oregon is ‘home’; it is to determine whether the person was a ‘resident within’ Oregon for the three years before the November 2022 general election,” it states.

Voters have a right to vote for qualified candidates of their choice, the response states, and that right would be compromised if the winner is later found to be ineligible to hold office and disqualified after the election.

A ruling to allow Kristof to run would eliminate the domicile standard, the response states, without providing a clear and consistent alternative means of deciding whether a candidate is an Oregon resident.

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