Kristof leaves NYT to consider governor bid

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof will leave the paper that has been his platform for 37 years as he considers launching a bid for governor in his home state of Oregon.

Kristof has been on leave from the paper since June while he explored a new career in politics. On Tuesday, he filed papers to form a committee that will allow him to raise money and hire staff for a potential campaign, though an adviser insisted he had not made a final decision.

In a statement to staff attached to the announcement of his departure, Kristof saluted what he called a “dream job” that has let him travel the globe reporting, in spite of a bout with malaria, a plane crash in Congo and the occasional arrest.

“[P]recisely because I have a great job, outstanding editors and the best readers, I may be an idiot to leave. But you all know how much I love Oregon, and how much I’ve been seared by the suffering of old friends there. So I’ve reluctantly concluded that I should try not only to expose problems but also see if I can fix them directly,” Kristof said in the statement.

“It’s hard to overstate how much I’ll miss him as a reader and as a colleague,” publisher A.G. Sulzberger said in a note to Times staff.

Kristof, 62, was raised in Yamhill, a small town in the heart of Oregon’s wine-producing Willamette Valley. His family owns a farm in the area, where he and his wife, fellow Pulitzer Prize-winning author Sheryl WuDunn, have been growing their own grapes.

Papers filed with Oregon’s secretary of state’s office say Kristof would run for governor as a Democrat, in a state that has not elected a Republican governor since 1982, the second-longest streak of Democratic control in the nation.

But he faces a crowded primary among battle-tested Democratic candidates running to replace Gov. Kate Brown (D), who is retiring because of term limits.

State House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) and state Treasurer Tobias Read (D) have already announced their intent to run. So has Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla (D), who sits on the board in Kristof’s home county. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) is also rumored to be contemplating running for a promotion.

There are no fewer candidates on the Republican side, where physician Bud Pierce, the 2016 nominee, is the likely front-runner. Pierce took 43 percent of the vote against Brown that year. State Sens. Tim Knopp (R) and Kim Thatcher (R) are also considering campaigns.

Though Oregon is a deep blue state — President Biden carried its seven electoral votes by a 16-point margin in 2020 — Democrats have won increasingly narrow races for governor in recent years. No Democratic gubernatorial candidate has won more than 51 percent of the vote there since 1998, when John Kitzhaber won the second of what would eventually be four terms.

Tags Joe Biden Kate Brown Oregon Oregon gubernatorial election The New York Times

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