Photo Credit: Dale Wetzel, AP
Al Jaeger has been Secretary of State for North Dakota since 1992 . But his 25 years in office is now set to be challenged by a man that was just 15 years old when Jaeger was first elected.
A source close to the situation tells me that Will Gardner of Mandan is set to announce his intentions to challenge Jaeger in his bid for re-election and the Republican nomination for Secretary of State in 2018. And Gardner’s resume is nothing to be scoffed at.
Gardner has been Chief Information Officer and President of First Court, Inc. since 2010. As you will see in his bio, Gardner graduated from North Dakota State University and joined First Court in 2004 as a webmaster, programmer, and graphic artist.
Gardner’s background is important to a race against Jaeger. One of the criticisms against the current Secretary of State is that he has been reluctant to embrace technol ogy updates– an allegation that appears evident by the picture on the article.
Rob Port of the Say Anything Blog laid out a number of examples in 2014 showing problems within the Secretary of State’s office. Jaeger attempted to counter Port’s claims later that year, but I think it’s fair to say that voters have reason to be concerned. I encourage you to check out the links.
I am told that Gardner has connections within the NDGOP and is actually well thought of. In fact, he’s currently Chairman of the District 34 Republican Party . In an era of Republican leadership where Governor Doug Burgum is constantly espousing innovation, Gardner’s background perfectly fits the mold.
Recently, the Board of University School Lands voted 3-2 to name a new Commissioner for the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands. One of the two votes in opposition to this was Al Jaeger, who sits on the five member board and joined Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in the dissent. The three in favor of a new direction for Land Commissioner were Governor Doug Burgum, DPI Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, and State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt– all three who favor the innovation Governor Burgum so often speaks of.
Does a vote such as this illustrate a potential divide within the party that may benefit a candidate like Will Gardner?
If we combine Gardner’s education, resume, technology background, and political connections; he may well have everything necessary to split the NDGOP Establishment and coalesce a ground game of gathering delegates to win the NDGOP State Convention in 2018.
Look out Al Jaeger. You may be in for the fight of your career. And the end result may be that you’re headed to an early retirement.
NOTE: The title of this article has been updated to reflect “Convention Challenger…” instead of “Primary Challenger”.