The Volokh Conspiracy

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N.Y. Times' Nick Kristof Can't Run for Oregon Governor

So the Oregon Supreme Court held today, ruling that Kristof doesn't satisfy the state constitution's requirement that a candidate "have been three years next preceding his election, a resident within this State."


From today's decision in State ex rel. Kristof v. Fagan:

Relator [Kristof] is a prospective candidate for governor. After he filed his declaration of candidacy with the Secretary of State, the secretary asked relator for additional information to substantiate that he will "have been three years next preceding his election, a resident within this State," as required to serve as governor by Article V, section 2, of the Oregon Constitution.

Relator submitted additional materials in support of his claim that he meets the constitutional eligibility requirement. Upon reviewing those materials, the secretary determined that, although relator had previously been a resident of Oregon, he had been a resident of New York since at least 2000 and he had not reestablished Oregon residency by November 2019. The secretary therefore concluded that relator did not meet the constitutional requirement….

In communicating its decision to relator, the Elections Division correctly emphasized that "it is not the Elections Division's role to determine whether any candidate is sufficiently 'Oregonian'" or "to examine the depth or sincerity of a candidate's emotional connection to Oregon." That is not this court's role either. It is undisputed that relator has deep roots in Oregon and has consistently spent time here over many years.

This case, however, requires us to decide two legal questions: (1) the meaning of "resident within this State," as those words are used in Article V, section 2, of the Oregon Constitution; and (2) whether the secretary was required to conclude that relator met that legal standard.

As we explain below, we conclude that "resident within," when viewed against the legal context that surrounded the Oregon Constitution's 1857 ratification, is best understood to refer to the legal concept of "domicile," which requires "the fact of a fixed habitation or abode in a particular place, and an intention to remain there permanently or indefinitely[.]" Reed's Will (Or. 1906). Under that legal concept, a person can have only a single residence at a time.

For the reasons that follow, we further hold that, on the record before the secretary, she was not required to conclude that relator was domiciled in Oregon between November 2019 and December 2020. Finally, although relator challenges the constitutionality of the durational residency requirement in Article V, section 2, we conclude that that question is not properly considered through this mandamus proceeding. We therefore … deny relator's petition….

We recognize that relator has longstanding ties to Oregon, that he owns substantial property and operates a farm here, and that the secretary did not question his current  Oregon residency. Moreover, he has thought deeply and written extensively about the challenges faced by those living in rural areas of Oregon—and the rest of the country.

But that is not the issue here. The issue, instead, is whether relator has been, during the three years preceding the November 2022 election, "a resident within this State." For the reasons set out above, we conclude that the secretary was not compelled to conclude, on the record before her, that relator satisfied that requirement.