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Despite a bumpy start -- including losing the GOP nomination race to a challenger who later dropped out -- Al Jaeger held the lead in early voting in the three-way North Dakota secretary of state race.

Jaeger, running as an independent candidate, had 50 percent of the vote, with 200 of 424 precincts reporting in incomplete, unofficial results on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Democrat Josh Boschee followed with 36 percent of the vote, followed by Michael Coachman, also running as an independent, with 13 percent.

Although Jaeger was not the endorsed Republican candidate for the office he first won in 1992, the GOP gave him the party’s official support when he entered as an independent candidate after the Republican nominee, Will Gardner, withdrew from the race amid news reports revealing his arrest years earlier on a “peeping Tom” charge.

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The criticisms of Jaeger’s rivals in the general election echoed those made by Gardner in the nomination race. Jaeger’s opponents criticized him for being slow in rolling out an online registration system for businesses and for failing to modernize the office.

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Jaeger countered that the FirstStop registration system is in testing and is expected to launch early next year. Although estimating earlier that the system would launch by September, Jaeger said that he didn’t want to rush the rollout for “political reasons.”

The secretary of state is the state’s top election official and handles business registrations, among other duties. The annual salary for the North Dakota secretary of state is $105,770.

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