The Oregon governor’s race just got more interesting with the official announcement today that longtime New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff is running for the job. This has been coming for awhile: A few weeks ago, Kristof resigned his position at the paper to weigh a run for the highest office in his home state, albeit “very reluctantly,” per the announcement from the newspaper.
Kristof formally kicked off his campaign with a polished video on a new website that hits the themes he's addressed in his columns over the years: The systemic failures on government level to address problems like falling wages, rising housing prices, addiction being equated with a crime, and a severely lacking mental health support system. He also acknowledges head-on what is likely to be a big issue in the race—his lack of previous political experience—and points to the sprawling houseless encampments in Downtown Portland as emblematic of why he thinks the system is ready for a change.
Kristof, who has worked at the Times since 1984, grew up on a farm in Yamhill County and moved back there in recent years, planting 20 acres with pinot grapes and cider apples a few years ago. Questions around the legitimacy of his candidacy—he voted as a New York resident in 2020 and only registered to vote in Oregon at the end of December last year, according to a Wilamette Week report, which is less than three years prior to the gubernatorial election—were addressed by local legal firm Perkins Coie in August, when they released a 15-page memo arguing Oregon should be considered his home, counting his payment of property taxes, his frequent visits and investments in the state, and even his own social media posts among the arguments.
Last year Kristof, released a new book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, set largely around his home county and tracing the ripple effects of generational poverty. His name has been circulating for months as a potential Democratic opponent for current Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, who officially announced her candidacy in August and is widely considered the frontrunner for the position, though she also faces competition State Treasurer Tobias Read, the only one of the three to have won a statewide race thus far. The 2022 race will have no incumbent, as Kate Brown cannot run for another consecutive term.
In an interview with Portland Monthly last year, Kristof called himself a "local yokel" and said that he was only able to write the book because he wasn't "some outsider parachuting in. This is someone who is part of the community and cares deeply about it and is trying to air problems with the hope that they will be addressed."