‘I know Oregon can be better’: Kristof announces run for governor


A political science professor at Reed College weighs in on the candidates vying for Oregon leadership

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After weeks of speculation that Nicholas Kristof has been considering a run for Oregon’s top office, the Yamhill native officially announced his gubernatorial campaign Wednesday morning.

Kristof, a former reporter, managing editor and columnist for the New York Times, issued a press release and coinciding video on his newly launched campaign website. The announcement said, in part, that despite never having run for office before — Kristof has “spent a lifetime shining a light into the darkest corners of the globe.”

“Nothing will change until we stop moving politicians up the career ladder year after year, even though they refuse to step up to the problems Oregon faces,” he said.

Kristof says it’s time to do something “about a system that’s rigged against so many ordinary Oregonians.”

Kristof grew up on a sheep and cherry farm outside Yamhill — which is now known as Kristof Farms. His father first came to Oregon as a WWII refugee from Eastern Europe and landed a job at a logging camp in Valsetz. Both Kristof’s father and mother went on to teach at Portland State University for decades.

“I exist only because Oregon showed compassion for a refugee — my father,” he said. “It’s that Oregon — the one of hope and opportunity, the one that reveals the best in us, even when things are at their worst, that I believe in. We seem to be losing some of that now. But I know we can create it together. That’s why I am running for governor.”

With two Pulitzers under his belt, the journalist has seen and covered various humanitarian crises across the world. But whenever he would return to Oregon, Kristof says he’d continue to see serious issues permeate his home state.

“I’ve buried too many friends and seen too many problems fester. We often accept Oregon’s problems as inevitable and unsolvable, but they’re not,” he said. “I know Oregon can be better, but we have to make a different choice – a choice to treat people with dignity and to tackle problems even when they’re hard. Oregon has given me so much, and that’s why I’m running for governor – to get Oregon back on track so that it works for everyone.”

Kristof’s departure from the Times came days after he filed paperwork to form a political action committee two weeks ago. That paperwork enabled the Oregon native to raise money and hire staff for his gubernatorial run.

Kristof had reportedly been exploring the possibility of running for several months. He has been on leave with the NYT since June — when The Times says he first told his editors he was weighing a run.

An increasingly crowded field

But is it legal for the venerated journalist to run for governor, despite voting in New York in 2020?

“There’s a claim because that’s true — he must be a resident of New York,” said Chris Koski, a political science professor at Reed College. “The counter-argument is you don’t have to be a resident of New York to actually vote there and therefore he is a resident of Oregon.”

So far, eight Democrats and 12 Republicans have established gubernatorial fundraising committees. Koski said speculating who will win the nominations is “tricky.” The most prominent Democrat in the running is Speaker of the House Tina Kotek.

“She’ll be tough for sure, she’ll be tough,” said Koski.

Koski said what really stands out to him so far about the race is the fact that longtime state Sen. Betsy Johnson — a Democrat whom Koski characterizes as relatively conservative — is running unaffiliated.

“That’s a big deal and I don’t think it’s because she wants to run as some kind of protest movement,” he said. “I think she thinks she might be able to win. Her candidacy in the race has the potential to really create a lot of challenges for both parties, particularly Democrats because she can come out essentially as someone who Republicans might actually vote for who don’t like Trump and there are a lot of moderate Democrats who might be in favor for a less progressive candidate.”

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