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In North Dakota, GOP Endorses Businessman Over Longtime Secretary of State

The North Dakota secretary of state will not run seek re-election after his party endorsed another, setting the stage to end his 25-year career and opening up the race for a new state elections head.

By April Baumgarten

The North Dakota secretary of state will not run seek re-election after his party endorsed another, setting the stage to end his 25-year career and opening up the race for a new state elections head.

Al Jaeger waved to a cheering crowd with his family Sunday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks as state GOP Chairman Rick Berg announced the secretary of state would abide by the decision of the delegates, who endorsed on Saturday Mandan businessman Will Gardner with a vote of 679-438.

"What we saw today, Al Jaeger putting the party ahead of his personal (interests), is huge in my book," Berg said toward the end of the convention.

Jaeger first was elected to the office in 1992 and is one of the longest-serving elected officials currently in office. Gardner, who made a successful motion to honor Jaeger, said the secretary of state's move to not seek re-election shows Jaeger's character and respect for the party.

"It spoke volumes about what I already know about him of who he is," Gardner told the Herald in a phone interview after the convention as he praised Jaeger.

Jaeger left the convention shortly after Berg's announcement, and the Herald was unable to connect with him for comment.

Gardner will run on what he called a "21st century" platform. He argued Saturday ahead of the endorsement that the Secretary of State's Office has fallen behind with technology.

If no other Republican files to run in the race by 4 p.m. Monday, April 9, Gardner will go to the primary election unopposed and then face Democrat Joshua Boschee, a state legislator from Fargo, and Roland Riemers, a Grand Forks Libertarian.


Other endorsements

The GOP unanimously endorsed Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann and Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring. Goehring has led the state's Agriculture Department since 2009 and will be challenged by Democratic state Sen. Jim Dotzenrod of Wyndmere, N.D.

Goehring said agriculturalists have fallen on hard times, referring to depressed commodity prices in recent years. But he said he believes the future of agriculture is bright.

"We have so much to be proud of," he said, listing expansions in agricultural exports and productions. "I'm proud of the accomplishments we made during my time in the Agriculture Department."

Christmann was first elected to the Public Service Commission in 2012 and will face his first re-election race when he faces Jean Brandt, a Democrat from Kramer, in the general election for a six-year term. Christmann said his experience spans beyond his time in the PSC, including his background in agriculture, telecommunications, energy and the North Dakota Legislature. He said feels confident going into the general election.

"People can see in North Dakota that our economy is growing, jobs are being created and utility rates are reasonable," he told the Herald. "I think people are going to support a continuance of what we're doing at the Public Service Commission."

(c)2018 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.)

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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