Kristof bids farewell to foray into Oregon politics

News-Register file photo##Nick Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn speak at the McMinnville Community Center in February 2020.
News-Register file photo##Nick Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn speak at the McMinnville Community Center in February 2020.

To paraphrase the infamous rant Richard Nixon delivered upon losing the California governor’s race to Pat Brown in 1962, you won’t have Nick Kristof to kick around anymore.

The gentleman farmer from Yamhill said he’s had it with politics —  Oregon politics, to be precise — and intends to spend the months ahead penning a memoir. It will largely chronicle his days as a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times.

When the book is finished, sometime this fall, and published, next spring or summer, he will most likely return to journalism. But he’s eying the West Coast this time.

The memoir invitation came from his editor, Jonathan Segal of New York City’s Alfred A. Knoph. “After I got booted off the ballot, my editor talked about it again and I made the decision to write it,” he recounted in a phone interview last week.

Segal first suggested it three years ago, Kristof said.

“It’s mostly going to be about my career in journalism,” he said. “I’m up to the Iraq War now.”

Kristof said one chapter, and one chapter only, will be devoted to his botched, ill-considered run for Oregon’s governor — a run that ended with Secretary of State Shamia Fagan bouncing him from the Democratic primary ballot.

Asked if he had sought a return to his 20-year columnist posting at The Times, Kristof said rather abruptly, “I don’t want to talk about that, or what I plan to do after the book is published. But I will likely re-engage in journalism, probably on the West Coast.”

He went on, “One of the great advantages of losing one’s job is that you get a lot of job offers.”

The 63-year-old newsman, once described as the conscience of a generation of journalists, said he was showered with offers following his forced withdrawal from the governor’s race.

They involved things like running a foundation, heading a news organization or leading a university, he said, understandably declining to be more specific. “But it is hard for me to give up journalism.”

As for politics, “It is unlikely I will do politics again,” he said. “I got in because I was concerned about Oregon’s direction. There were no incumbents, and I thought Oregon voters were looking for a change.”

On May 19, Kristof, who spent much of his ill-considered campaign railing against entrenched members of his own party, decided to endorse one anyway.

He came out in support of former House Speaker Tina Kotek, who’d handily clinched her party’s nomination in the primary, two days earlier.

“Oregon faces huge challenges, and we need real leadership,” Kristof said in a statement released by Kotek’s campaign. “That’s Tina Kotek.

“On housing, homelessness, education, she has actually led and made a real difference for Oregonians. That’s why I’m delighted to support her.”

Asked in the recent interview whether he would campaign for Kotek in the coming months, he replied, “I am constrained by the memoir.”

Kristof acknowledged being aware of Oregon’s residency requirements before announcing his candidacy for governor on Oct. 27, 2021.

“We consulted with a number of attorneys, election lawyers, and what the lawyers said was the residency requirement is ambiguous and had not been tested. Three other former secretaries of state said the same thing.”

Kristof said of voting for Joe Biden in New York’s general election in 2020, “That certainly didn’t help. In retrospect, I clearly would not have done that.

“But had I voted in Oregon, would that have made a difference with Fagan? Who knows?”

Kristof’s campaign for governor lasted all of 114 days.

In January 2022, Fagan, a civil rights attorney with the word “vote” tattooed on her forearm, ended it by ruling him ineligible. With that, he returned to his family estate in Yamhill.

The normally mild-mannered Kristof was furious when the decision came down.

“Instead of working to end homelessness, they’re working to end my candidacy,” he said, accusing Fagan of being a part of the “political establishment.”

Fagan responded, “Instead of just saying, ‘Wow, this is really shitty! It sucks to have this dream of going out and becoming governor and then finding out that I can’t.’”

On appeal, the Oregon Supreme Court unanimously sided with Fagan. And that was that.

Kristof, meanwhile, holds little hope for the Democrats to retain control of the House in the mid-term election in November.

“It is going to be very difficult for Democrats around the country,” he said. “I think Roe v. Wade may help them in some places, but gas prices and so on is going to hurt.

“Republicans have done a good job in creating a narrative that appeals to voters in the middle. I disagree completely with their narrative, but you can’t win elections by wagging fingers at the voters.”

Ellis Conklin spent decades serving as a reporter and editor at West Coast newspapers, including the Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Herald Examiner and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He and his wife have now settled into retirement in Manzanita, on the Oregon coast.



Back to New York with you.

Joel R

It wasn't Fagan that bumped him. As the article said at the very end it was actually the Oregon Supreme Court that ultimately bumped him.
On a separate note, have journalistic standards declined to the point where it's now acceptable to use a word like "shitty" in a mainstream newspaper article?

Don Dix

Joel R -- That's just one of George Carlin's '7 words' rant -- hope I live long enough for all to have everyday inclusion!

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