NYT's Most "Oh Yeah That Guy" Columnist Leaves to Explore Run for Governor

Nicholas Kristof has been a Times opinion writer for 20 years

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20:  Journalist Nicholas Kristof speaks speaks at Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz...
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Longtime New York Times opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof is quitting his day job to pursue his passion project: possibly running for governor of Oregon. The news, which the Times announced in an internal memo on Thursday, comes days after Kristof, 62, formed a political action committee. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has been on leave from the Times since June, when he told his employer that he was considering a bid for governor to succeed Democrat Kate Brown, a term-limited governor who cannot run again in the 2022 election.

Kristof grew up on his family’s farm near Yamhill, Oregon, and moved back there in 2019. Oregon has a three-year residency requirement for gubernatorial candidates, but Kristof, despite having voted as a resident of New York in the November 2020 election, made the case to the Willamette Week that he qualifies as an Oregon resident because he has long owned property and paid taxes in Oregon, and considers the state his home.

Notable supporters for his candidacy so far include The New Republic owner and editor-in-chief Win McCormack, who in September published a fawning endorsement of Kristof in his publication (the piece was later updated to disclose that McCormack’s partner, Carol Butler, is involved in Kristof’s campaign).

In statements included in the Times internal memo, Kristof said that he is departing from the newspaper because he no longer wants to just “expose problems,” but instead try to “fix them directly.” That desire might explain why the columnist is leaving what may be the cushiest job in the world (getting paid what I can only assume are pretty big bucks to opine on the subjects of his choosing a couple times a week for an audience of millions) to pursue a position that ostensibly involves more work and critical decision making. Kristof suggests as much himself in his goodbye note: “This has been my dream job … [P]recisely because I have a great job, outstanding editors and the best readers, I may be an idiot to leave.”

But, as my colleagues reminded me when I put forth this viewpoint in my trial run to become an opinion columnist in Slack this morning, “Well, it’s Oregon… not that much going on.” I mean, there are Nazis. And fires. But point taken.