BISMARCK, N.D. -- Democratic-NPL Party candidate April Fairfield says she's running for secretary of state in order to reverse what she called a series of missteps and mismanagement in recent years by the incumbent.
Fairfield made her announcement Wednesday at the Kennedy Center in Bismarck. Secretary of State Al Jaeger, a Republican, denied her allegations of office mismanagement.
Fairfield previously lived in Eldridge and served in the state House from 1996-2002 and the Senate from 2002-06. She now lives in Bismarck and works as the executive director of the Head Injury Association of North Dakota.
Prior to her time in the Legislature, she was a public policy analyst for the North Dakota Farmers Union and the North Dakota Economic Policy Project.
She said her record has provided the experience necessary to run the secretary of state’s office.
Fairfield pointed to several incidents in recent years she said reveals a pattern of “incompetence and mismanagement” of the office.
“That’s not a personal attack, it’s a matter of public record,” Fairfield said.
She first spoke of the department’s information technology project, which began in 2006. The software project is intended to upgrade the office’s system for uses such as central indexing, licensing and registrations and campaign finance. The project experienced repeated delays and remains incomplete.
Fairfield also referenced the reduction of hours for which the office was open for several months in 2012 in order to allow staff to catch up on paperwork. She said many communities and businesses in the state have been impacted by increased workloads the last few years.
“(It) didn’t seem like a very appropriate method of approaching the situation,” Fairfield said.
Fairfield said a top priority if elected would be to “make sure the doors are open for business” and not let the situation of reducing hours to play catchup ever happen again.
She also cited the $700,000 campaign using federal money, which was rolled out this month by Jaeger’s office to educate voters on the state’s voter ID laws passed last year. Fairfield said education on the new law should have begun after it was passed, not several months later.
“Something is not quite right in this office,” Fairfield said. “This is a pattern.”
Jaeger took exception with Fairfield’s characterization of past events. He said he didn’t appreciate her references to mismanagement of the office, arguing that it not only implicates him but his entire staff.
“That’s a direct attack on my staff, and I take issue with that,” Jaeger said. “That troubles me greatly.”
Jaeger went on to call his decision to reduce office hours to catch up on paperwork one of his best decisions he’d made while in office. He said the reduced hours and approval given for three temporary staff improved overall service in the long run.
“I will not back away from this,” Jaeger said of the decision.
Jaeger declined to comment directly on other issues brought up by Fairfield, including the voter ID laws and software project, other than to call her narrative of those topics inaccurate.