An intraparty race for North Dakota Secretary of State may be in the works.
Will Gardner, chairman of the District 34 Republicans, is scheduled to address a committee of the North Dakota Republican Party later this month in Minot as a candidate for Secretary of State, according to an agenda obtained by Forum News Service. That would set up a challenge to the longtime Republican incumbent Al Jaeger, who said Monday morning, he planned to run again. He was first elected in 1992.
“I have a solid record,” Jaeger said. “We have a lot of exciting things going forward in terms of things that I want to get accomplished in the office, and that’s what I’ll be concentrating on. I’m not going to be concentrating on what somebody else may want to do.”
Jaeger told the Tribune the state is in need of a new voting system and securing the funding to replace the current system is a high priority. He also said the department's new software platform is launching in the spring, allowing businesses to register and file annual reports online.
"It's going to change the nature of the office so we're not shuffling paper as much," he said. "It's an entirely new direction as far as services we provide and I want to be part of that."
Gardner said he hasn’t made a formal announcement but acknowledged he’s been thinking about a run for some time. He told the Tribune he will officially announce in the next few weeks, prior to his talk in Minot.
Gardner is the chief information officer of Mandan-based First Court Inc., which provides jury research to law firms and insurance carriers. He told the Tribune he helped the company build a digital presence.
Gardner also ran a software development company, WWW Software, which has since been disbanded, for more than a decade while also doing contract work for First Court. In addition, he has experience as a programmer analyst for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and as webmaster for North Dakota State University libraries, he said.
Gardner said he plans to use his background in technology to grow the use of technology within the Secretary of State’s office. He said he wants to ensure “government works hard to clear the way for business to move forward."
“I’m very excited, very ready for it,” he said.
The Secretary of State is the state’s chief election officer. The office is also responsible for licensing contractors, registering lobbyists and charitable organizations, and it maintains records on various businesses.
Gardner told the Tribune he thinks Jaeger has done great things and has run a tight ship as Secretary of State.
Jaeger garnered more than 62 percent of the vote in a three-way race with Democrat April Fairfield and Libertarian Roland Riemers in 2014.
(Tribune reporter Jessica Holdman contributed to this story.)