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YAMHILL, Ore. (AP) — Former New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof traded the concrete canyons of Manhattan and the ritzy New York suburb of Scarsdale for his old family home, located on a dirt road in Oregon, to run for governor.

But Kristof, who won two Pulitzer Prizes, including for reporting on China’s failed 1989 pro-democracy movement, was declared ineligible for the seemingly simplest of reasons: He hadn’t lived in Oregon long enough.

Kristof has gone to the state Supreme Court to fight the Jan. 6 decision. The justices begin deliberating the matter Thursday.

During an interview at his farm on the outskirts of the tiny town of Yamhill (population 1,000), Kristof spoke with concern about the plight of neighbors he had grown up with after moving here when he was 12. Some are barely hanging on financially. Some have died from drugs, suicide and obesity. One froze to death while homeless.

“At The New York Times, I had a very good tool box to call attention to problems, but it wasn’t a toolbox to fix them,” Kristof said of his decision to trade journalism for politics.

Three dogs gamboled about as Kristof, whose curly hair is graying, spoke during the interview in a shed. In the wintry sunshine several acres of pinot noir and chardonnay grapevines have been planted, with the first harvest expected this year.

Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn — who shared the Pulitzer for the China reporting — wrote a book, “Tightrope,” about the despair of so many in Oregon and beyond as blue-collar jobs disappeared and hourly wages kept falling when adjusted for inflation. Easy access to opioids compounded problems, causing addiction and overdoses.

He’s also written about the issues as a columnist for The New York Times, a position he resigned from last year to run for governor. He lives once again in the family house with his wife and his 89-year-old mother.

He says he saw the coronavirus pandemic make things worse — some old friends relapsed and resumed using drugs, some became homeless, some kids doing remote learning didn’t have cell phone or internet access. COVID-19 was the tipping point that made him run as a Democratic candidate for the state’s highest office, he said.

But the fact that Kristof voted in New York state in 2020 was the main evidence Oregon election officials cited behind their decision that he hadn’t been “a resident within” Oregon for three years before the November 2022 election, as the state Constitution requires.

“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,” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said.

Kristof’s candidacy, meanwhile, has raised questions about what makes a true Oregonian.

His attorneys told the Supreme Court that Fagan’s broad interpretation of the Constitution’s requirements for governor may disfavor candidates like Kristof who frequently travel and maintain multiple residences. Kristof regularly visited his Oregon property, which he expanded over the years after moving away to attend Harvard and Oxford before joining the Times.

“There are many peripatetic Oregonians who, for various reasons, live in more than one place and may prefer candidates who understand the experience of living in multiple places or changing residences often,” the lawyers wrote, citing “seasonal migrant workers,” university students, soldiers and others.

Reyna Lopez, executive director of Oregon’s farmworkers union, PCUN, and the daughter of Mexican immigrant farm workers, objected to the comparison.

“For a wealthy white man to compare the fact that he owns property in Oregon while living in New York to the lives and experiences of migrant workers is deeply shocking. Farmworkers are forced into an itinerant and difficult life … to survive and support their families,” Lopez said in a brief filed with the court in support of Fagan’s decision.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who is defending Fagan’s decision at the Supreme Court, referenced concerns that are as old as Oregon that outsiders would seek political office here.

Delegates to Oregon’s Constitutional Convention of 1857 expressed the “holy horror of your California graceless, godless school of politicians” coming to Oregon in search of office, Rosenblum said.

Kristof’s attorneys insisted “he has been a resident of the state for many years, his ties to Oregon are deep and abiding, and voters — not elections officials — should decide his suitability to be governor.”

Fagan on Jan. 6 told reporters that according to Oregon law, “if a person casts a ballot in another state, they are no longer a resident of Oregon.”

But former Secretaries of State Bill Bradbury and Jeanne Atkins pointed out to the court that the provision concerns the right to cast a ballot, not “the right to be on the ballot.”

“So, even while saying that voting elsewhere costs you the right to vote here, the Legislature has not said that it also costs you the right to run for office here,” they said.

Kristof has raised $2.7 million in campaign donations. That figure includes large donations from out of state, but also contributions from every county in Oregon. If the court upholds Kristof’s disqualification, he won’t have to return the money. He could use it for a different campaign.

Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla, who was also running for governor before going for state labor commissioner instead, said he has encouraged Kristof to run for the state House, Congress or the county commission.

If the court overturns Fagan, Kristof will face leading candidates Tina Kotek, who recently resigned as Oregon House Speaker, and state Treasurer Tobias Read for the Democratic nomination in the May primary.

Kristof won’t say what he’ll do with the campaign contributions if the court rules against him.

“I have great confidence in the Oregon Supreme Court,” he said. “So I’ll be on the ballot and we will need those donations.”

Kristoff and WuDunn still own their house in Scarsdale. A campaign spokeswoman said they intend to sell it.

___

Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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Trump Gives Last-Minute Endorsement to Big Lie Proponent in PA Governors Race

Far right candidate for Pennsylvania Governor Doug Mastriano speaks to supporters in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on Friday. Aimee Dilger/ZUMA

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Donald Trump is hedging his bets. His candidate in the Pennsylvania race for US Senate, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, looks like he might lose to a political nobody in Tuesday’s primary. So, on Saturday, Trump endorsed State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the far-right front runner in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary.

The move seems to be a way for Trump to save face and pretend his endorsement is more powerful than it really is. Last month, Trump surprised many of his supporters when he put his weight behind Oz, who is not really anybody’s idea of a MAGA warrior. Since then, “ultra-MAGA” candidate Kathy Barnette has surged in the polls and has now joined another candidate, David McCormick, within the margin of error behind Oz, according to a recent Fox News poll.

Barnette’s hard-right rhetoric and story of overcoming the adversity she faced as a Black girl in rural Alabama has resonated with Trump’s supporters. It’s an embarrassing development for Trump, who is testing his base’s loyalty by urging them to vote for a TV doctor.

In interviews with Pennsylvania Republicans, the New York Times found deep skepticism of Oz and admiration for Barnette. An 83-year-old named Dolores Mrozinski told Times reporter Jennifer Medina that Barnette was “no-nonsense and the real thing.” Her daughter said of Oz, “He looks like he had a face lift.”

Barnette is now near the top of the polls, despite having far less money and institutional backing than her competitors. Her supporters do not seem to mind her record of anti-Muslim and anti-gay comments. Instead, they appear inspired by her message of how she rose to be a Senate candidate after growing up in a home without insulation or running water. The closest she came to elected office before this year was losing a 2020 House race by nearly 20 points.

In the governor’s race, Mastriano built up a roughly 10-point lead over his rivals before securing Trump’s support. He was central to Trump’s efforts in Pennsylvania to overturn the 2020 election. He also organized bus trips to Washington, DC, for the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally and was outside the Capitol that day—though there is no evidence he entered the building and he has not been accused of breaking any laws. “There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than State Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said in his endorsement of Mastriano. “He has revealed the Deceit, Corruption, and outright Theft of the 2020 Presidential Election, and will do something about it.”

Earlier this week, Trump’s preferred candidate in the Nebraska governor’s race, Charles Herbster, lost his primary. Herbster had impeccable Trumpian credentials, but he was also accused of sexual assault by eight women, including a Nebraska state senator. Despite the allegations, which Herbster has denied, Trump traveled to Nebraska to campaign on Herbster’s behalf. Trump’s loss in the Nebraska contest came just after he played a key role in securing a win for JD Vance in Ohio’s GOP Senate primary.

Pennsylvania will provide another test of Trump’s sway. Fox News host Sean Hannity, a close Trump ally, has gone out of his way to attack Barnette in the lead up to the primary. Trump has said in a statement that she “will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats.”

The problem for Trump is that many of his supporters are making up their own minds, including Mastriano himself, who has endorsed Barnette and has been campaigning alongside her. Michael Testa, an Army veteran and handyman interviewed by the Times, drives a minivan with “Trump Won” stickers. But Testa, who hasn’t yet decided who he’ll vote for in the Senate primary, said, “I’m not going to be somebody who does something just because one person says so, even if that person is Trump.”

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