What Is Residency, Really?

Nicholas Kristof’s bid for Oregon governor makes us wonder.

By Margaret Seiler January 7, 2022

An outline map of the continental US, plus Alaska and Hawaii, with a check mark on each state

Two weeks after resigning from his New York–based jobs and one year after voting in New York state, Nick Kristof announced his bid for the office of Oregon governor in October and formally filed his candidacy in December 2021. On January 6, 2022, the Oregon Elections Division announced it had notified the Kristof campaign that the office is "rejecting his filing for Governor because he does not meet the constitutional requirements to serve. Article V, § 2 of the Oregon Constitution requires a candidate for governor to have been a 'resident within this state' for three years before the election." The Kristof campaign will appeal.

15-page lawyer-drafted argument released in August about his residency touted Kristof's connections to the Beaver State: "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." 

Meanwhile, Portland Monthly has intercepted the following memo, in which some leading legal scholars have considered the eligibility for governor for our own managing editor, Margaret Seiler—and it turns out she is, in their legal opinion, eligible to run in all 50 states.


Margaret Seiler is deeply connected to each of the 50 states that make up the United States of America. In turn, she has considered each one of them to be her home, a place where she maintains extensive contacts, grows Gravenstein apples, and has made significant investments of time, thought, and bar tabs. She has filed taxes and been registered to vote in several.


Margaret Seiler was born in Kentucky, and that is where she also learned to read, ride a bike, and drive both an automatic and a stick. While away from home, she set up periodic “Kentucky Derby parties.” In a recent conversation with a coworker she mentioned following “the education reporter in my hometown” on Twitter, and then named a staff member of the Louisville Courier-Journal. She also knows how to pronounce Versailles.

She left Kentucky to attend college in Massachusetts, and her extensive knowledge of the service plazas on the Mass Pike is something only a “resident” could have. Her sentiment for this home is evident to all who have heard “UMass” by the Pixies playing in the background while they were on the phone with her.

As a child, Seiler once failed to get off the interconcourse train at Hartsfield with the rest of her family, and spent a harrowing few minutes imagining she was lost for good and would spend the rest of her life in the Georgia airport. Perhaps that is what really happened and what we think of as reality is just a faulty strand in the multiverse.

While tagging along with a friend’s family to visit their grandparents in Jackson, Mississippi, Seiler watched the Jerry Lewis telethon, a program that ran so long she aged many years and established residency in a mere long weekend.

During middle school—a key developmental time when a single hour is the equivalent of an entire month in the life of someone of voting age—Seiler spent approximately 36 hours (three years in adult time) in Huntsville, Alabama, on a school field trip to Space Camp.

In the winter of 1990, Seiler attended her first-ever screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in East Lansing, Michigan, which is the cultural equivalent of being registered to vote there for decades.

Seiler was in Florida on spring break when Kurt Cobain died. For someone her age, where you were when Kurt Cobain died is, in a way, where you always are.

While passing through Sedona in 2001, she was hugged twice by a stranger in a poncho who called himself Mystic Mike and claimed he could see that her spirit felt at home there, in Arizona. Also in 2001, it was so foggy the day Seiler took the Talimena Scenic Drive that she is not 100 percent sure she ever actually drove out of Arkansas, or maybe it was Oklahoma. She could still be there now.

One of her kids’ favorite restaurants is Burgerville, which was founded in Vancouver, Washington.

Seiler has felt a deep spiritual connection with Idaho ever since she first read Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. She has felt a deep spiritual connection with Iowa ever since she first read Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, as well as a hearty gonnegtion with New York since she first wondered if the eyes on the cover of The Great Gatsby were following her around the room.

Seiler has enough knowledge of Wisconsin to know that the college portrayal in The Prince and Me is not accurate, but is at least more accurate than the college portrayal in Love Actually.

In 2019, she attended the City & Regional Magazine Association annual conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and consumed an amount of free wine that would be appropriate for a resident of the immediate vicinity, not a person who had to wake up early for a long flight home. Later that year, Seiler edited a magazine travel package about California.

Seiler has a friend who looked so much like her growing up they were often asked if they were twins. This friend now lives in Colorado—or does she? It could easily be Seiler who lives in Colorado.

Seiler has both been stuck in traffic in Delaware and picked strawberries in Delaware—a full life, by any measure. While there, she said, to no one, “Hi, I’m in Delaware,” and pretended to walk in front of a green screen.

The films Mystic Pizza and The Ice Storm cemented her relationship with Connecticut, while October Sky gave her a gubernatorial-level bond with both West Virginia (where it is set) and Tennessee (where it was filmed). North by Northwest knit her permanently to South Dakota, as did Close Encounters of the Third Kind to neighboring Wyoming, and Lone Star and Holes to Texas.

She does not need to join the masses claiming a connection to Maryland thanks to The Wire, because she was already an old-school fan of Homicide: Life on the Street (and is, of course, still very troubled by the Adena Watson case).

Seiler once spent Christmas in Louisiana, and wherever Santa finds a person is considered an official residence, obvi.

Seiler ate pad Thai for the first time in Rhode Island, a seminal dining experience that created an eternal link to the place.

Her best friend’s sister’s boyfriend's brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who can attest that Seiler is a resident of Illinois

Cabot Cove, Maine, while fictional, is a place Seiler considers a family home, because her Aunt Jessica, a famous mystery writer, lives there.

Seiler attended a Lebowski Fest near Las Vegas, Nevada, and was told by a cab driver that going to a bowling alley in Henderson was “kind of a locals’ thing,” so she is kind of a local.

Seiler was once in traffic court in New Jersey on the same docket as a lead-footed Bill Murray, so in addition to being a potential candidate for governor there she’s pretty sure she’s also an honorary Ghostbuster.

In Nebraska, she paid the out-of-state surcharge while camping at the BlueStem State Recreation Area, but only because she wanted to support conservation efforts funded by camping fees and not because she considers herself non-Nebraskan.

Seiler waited in enough long lines at Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio, to be afforded lifelong residency of the front seat of the Beast, a wooden roller coaster. While riding one of the Racers at Kings Dominion in Richmond, Seiler is pretty sure her daemon, a male marmot named Lester, was separated from her and remained in Virginia, granting both of them eligibility to run for office there.

She once visited a natural hot spring in New Mexico, where someone mentioned to her that people from the area are the only ones who know about it, so she is, by definition, from the area.

On her phone, Seiler has a recording of the sounds of frogs and crickets from a campground in the middle of Missouri, because they so remind her of “home.” Seiler owns a CD of songs performed by “Piano Pat” Sponheim, the longtime musical fixture at the Sip ’n Dip at the O’Haire Motor Lodge in Great Falls, Montana, and would have declared a statewide day of mourning and ordered flags lowered, not just offered some empty platitudes, had she been governor of the Treasure State when Sponheim died in May 2021.

She visited Alaska with a friend who was on a mission to sing karaoke in all 50 states, and feels strongly that no one should run for governor of a state without having sung karaoke in that state. (They ended up at a bar’s country night, and she performed Emmylou Harris’s “Two More Bottles of Wine.”)

While she did not sing at the event (it’s for the best), she did attend an early-’90s Lollapalooza in Indiana, at which some attendees, particularly those whose friend locked her keys in the car and had to linger in the parking lot for hours afterward waiting for AAA, felt like they’d aged a few decades while in the state.

The family of Seiler’s grandmother, from whom she inherited several tall cocktail glasses and a tendency to walk quickly, came from North Carolina, so in a sense her origins are there, as well, even thought she's, like, the only girl in her family not to be named after this grandmother.

She has visited the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont and eaten more Ben & Jerry’s than is wise for someone with sporadic lactose intolerance, a sure sign that she is, in her stomach, a Vermonter.

When her son was in a Thomas the Tank Engine phase, Seiler spent a lot of time looking at Kennywood’s website and calculating how far a drive it would be from where her relatives live in Pennsylvania, and now she is as much a part of that state as Ben Franklin or Punxsutawney Phil.

Seiler once stopped at a state-run liquor store in New Hampshire and accidentally ended up as a member of its 4,000,000-person state house, so she and all her colegislators may run for governor.

The owner of a Kansas Jayhawks basketball shirt, Seiler feels betrayed by Roy Williams and knows the geological origins of the “Rock Chalk” chant, which is all the state requires for service in Topeka.

Seiler both noticed the manure smell in historic downtown Charleston, thanks to its many horse-drawn-carriage tours, and didn’t really mind it, which establishes a kinship with South Carolina no distance can lessen.

There is a picture of Seiler’s feet standing at the Four Corners, so the ball and toes of her left foot (she was facing north) are forever lodged in Utah, and, by the Daniel Day-Lewis/Christy Brown rule, whatever one’s left foot does is kinda defining. In addition, her left foot and the rest of her stepped off the Empire Builder on a recent cross-country trip and spent a whole hour in Minot, North Dakota—the Amtrak train was running early, if you can believe it, so the stop was extra long to keep the train on schedule.

Seiler admits there is one state in which she has never set foot, but she has established emotional residency there nonetheless. Bella, a border collie mix who lived with Seiler for 13 years, grew up in Hawaii, and communicated memories of the place through lots of snuggles.

Seiler first registered to vote in Oregon in 2001, though she considers her true residency in the state to have begun a few years later, when she first heard the song “Portland Type Shit” by Cool Nutz and also became familiar with the discography of Dead Moon, both works of art she holds firm in her heart, thus establishing, in view of the totality of circumstances, the subjective intention that a place in Oregon is home.


Legal doctrine can sometimes deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate. Even in a legal memorandum it can be important to look down at the situation as if from the UFO on the poster in Fox Mulder’s office and simply want to believe, to look past the Doug firs and to the Enchanted Forest, which Seiler finally went to last summer after 20 years in Oregon and which is officially amazing.

Margaret Seiler is a resident of [insert state name here]. That is obvious. She has driven on the interstate highway there. She once peed behind a tree there, because the people going into the rest-area building weren’t wearing masks and there was a pandemic raging. She has sent her children on a plane that flew over, near, or to that state, and eaten at that restaurant everyone talks about there. She has done all of that over decades.

Accordingly, she is eligible to serve in the position of governor of any or all of the 50 states.

This memorandum is not intended to contain a lick of sense. Everything in it is completely true except for the Maine, Illinois, New Hampshire, and daemon stuff.  

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