Oregon’s top election compliance specialist said it wasn’t even close. Lydia Plukchi disqualified Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Nicholas Kristof as a candidate for governor. Her boss backed her up on a nation-wide press conference.
[00:00:13] Secretary of State Shemia Fagan: My name is Shemia Fagan. I use she/her pronouns and I am honored to serve as Oregon’s 28th Secretary of State.
[00:00:21] I’m joined today, albeit virtually, by our Elections Director, Deborah Scroggin and our Compliance Specialist who worked on this filing, Lydia Plukchi. And Lydia has been with the agency for almost 20 years.
[00:00:33] John Q: The Secretary of State said she supported the ruling.
[00:00:36] Secretary of State Shemia Fagan: Let me be clear. I stand by their decision. I agree with their decision and I will defend their decision.
[00:00:43] John Q: She said the rules are the rules for everyone.
[00:00:46] Secretary of State Shemia Fagan: My top priority is building trust with Oregonians and we build trust by applying the same rules to everybody. The same rules for someone famous as for someone who’s not. The same rules for someone in my political party as someone who’s not. The same rules for someone who’s raised millions of dollars as someone who has raised none. No exceptions, no special treatment, the rules are the rules for everybody.
[00:01:11] In fact, you might find it interesting, at least I did, that Mr. Kristof’s filing is just one of 11 that our Elections Division had to disqualify just in the past year for not qualifying for the office that they seek, including six other candidates for Oregon Governor in 2022 who didn’t meet the requirements for the ballot. Let that sink in. In other words, Mr. Kristof is the seventh candidate for Governor that the elections division has had to disqualify in the past year because of failure to meet the minimum qualifications for the office.
[00:01:49] Maggie Vespa (KGW): Yeah. Thank you guys again very much for doing this, Secretary. Thank you… You were surprised to learn how many candidates for multiple offices were being disqualified. I know there were six other gubernatorial candidates. Can you elaborate on that?
[00:02:02] Secretary of State Shemia Fagan: Hi, Maggie, and I saw on Twitter that you weren’t feeling well until recently, so I’m glad you’re back and feeling better. Lydia can provide more information. I just happened to ask her, like, Is this common? So, um, Lydia, you can provide if this is a high number, a low number, historically, a lot or a little?
[00:02:16] Lydia Plukchi: The number does go up when there’s a highly contested race on the ballot. So especially the governor. If Governor is an open office and the current governor is not running, there’s a lot of people that file. There’s a lot of candidates and so it’s not uncommon. It’s very common that we have quite a few candidates who don’t meet qualifications. And this is a regular process, especially when somebody like Governor is on the ballot and it’s not contested.
[00:02:47] Secretary of State Shemia Fagan: And again, Lydia told me yesterday, it wasn’t even a close call.
[00:02:52] John Q: Candidate Kristof held his own press conference later that day.
[00:02:55] Nicholas Kristof: A failing political establishment is protecting itself. The status quo is defending itself. In defiance of case law and common sense, in conflict with three former Secretaries of State and a former Oregon Supreme Court justice, the Secretary of State has attempted to remove me from the ballot in this year’s governor’s race, a decision grounded in politics, not precedent. The law is clearly on our side. Our campaign will challenge this decision in court and we will win. We have great faith in the Oregon courts. We’re going to continue campaigning for Governor, and we’re going to win that too. The Secretary of State’s ruling is troubling. But as you all know, I come from outside the political establishment and I don’t owe insiders anything. They view my campaign as a threat. And so instead of working to end homelessness, they’re working to end my candidacy.
[00:04:02] John Q: The Secretary of State described how election officials reached their decision.
[00:04:06] Secretary of State Shemia Fagan: Let me walk you briefly through some of the objective facts that the elections officials used to make their decision.
[00:04:12] Until late 2020 or early 2021, Mr. Kristof lived in New York, and has for the past 20 years. When Mr. Kristof was traveling for work or vacation, he would repeatedly return to his New York residence. Mr. Kristof maintained a driver’s license in New York for 20 years. Until recently he was employed in New York. He received his mail at his New York address. He filed income taxes in New York. And perhaps most importantly, Mr. Kristof voted as a resident of New York for 20 years, including, and this is important, as recently as November of 2020. Ms. Plukchi asked Mr. Kristof for additional information or documents to overcome the strong evidence that, taken together, shows until late 2020-early 2021, Mr. Kristof considered himself a resident of New York.
In response, Mr. Kristof provided a variety of sentiments and statements that he’s made over the years, which we expect are genuine sentiments about his love for Oregon, that he considered Oregon home and his desire to someday return to Oregon. He talked about his visits too in connection with the family farm in Yamhill County, renovations to the family farm house, and his affiliation with a recent LLC operating there.
[00:05:31] Mr. Kristof also said that he filed income taxes in Oregon in 2019 and 2020, but he didn’t provide any documentation whatsoever. And he didn’t even claim that he filed those taxes as an Oregon resident.
[00:05:44] While I have no doubt that Mr. Kristof’s sentiments and feelings towards Oregon are genuine and sincere, they’re simply dwarfed by the mountains of objective evidence that until recently, he considered himself a New York resident.
And it is worth noting, particularly for those of you who are not as familiar with Oregon as our Oregon media, that Oregon’s system of vote by mail makes it exceptionally easy for an Oregon resident to receive their ballot out of state. Any Oregon resident who won’t be home during the election to receive their ballot can simply go on OregonVotes.org, update their voter registration mailing address, and your county clerk will make sure that your ballot arrives literally anywhere on the globe.
So while this case has clearly garnered significant public interest, in the end, our elections officials told me it wasn’t even a close call.
[00:06:37] And while there have been creative legal arguments and an impressive PR campaign, given the evidence, I venture that most Oregonians who are paying attention have reached the same conclusion. Look. To find that Mr. Kristof meets the three-year constitutional residency requirement for Oregon governor, while for 20 years living, working, raising his kids, holding a driver’s license, filing taxes, and voting as a New York resident until a year ago, just doesn’t pass the smell test.
[00:07:09] John Q: At Nicholas Kristof’s press conference, a reporter followed up on the Secretary of State’s explanation. If the compliance specialist found it wasn’t even close, why would a judge be any different?
[00:07:22] Nicholas Kristof: There were people who have looked at this, including three former Democratic Secretaries of State, including the former Supreme Court justice, including the only legal precedent we know of, where the Secretary of State tried to remove somebody from the ballot.
[00:07:39] And, uh, that was located, they all found (unintelligible) principle of inclusiveness and (unintelligible) former Secretary that informed me justice, uh, having me on the ballot. So I can’t put myself in the shoes of the Secretary of State. Uh, but I do know where the law is and where this will end up and that will be on the ballot in November.
[00:08:06] Secretary of State Shemia Fagan: It’s not lost on me that today is one year since there was a violent attack at the United States Capitol. And we’re only a few weeks past the one-year anniversary of an attack on the Oregon Capitol. While I’ve served as Secretary of State for the past year, it’s been in the midst of an unprecedented attack on our democracy, historic distrust in public services, and a scourge of misinformation and false accusations. …
[00:08:33] I want to thank the hardworking professionals in the Elections Division for their prompt attention and dedication to this matter. And I want to thank the election officials all over our country for the hard work they do to protect the integrity of our elections and make our democracy work every day.
[00:08:49] John Q: On Friday, candidate Kristof asked the Oregon Supreme Court to overrule elections officials and declare him a long-time Oregonian.