JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Monday Morning Update On Will Gardner

Although Peeping Will Gardner has said he will “withdraw from the election of Secretary of State,” because it’s “the best decision for my family and me,” (you can read more about that in earlier post) the ballot for the June 12 primary election is already printed, and his name is on it.

So, on June 12, voters will go to the polls, and Republicans will vote for their candidates — you can only vote for one party in North Dakota’s primary election. If at least 300 Republicans vote for Will Gardner, he is the presumed Republican candidate for North Dakota Secretary of State in November.

I’ve searched Section 16.1 of the North Dakota Century Code, our state’s election laws, and I can’t find a formal process that would let an endorsed candidate for statewide office withdraw from the ballot just because he doesn’t want to run anymore, and it’s “the best decision for my family and me.”

There’s a provision in Section 16.1-11-18 that would allow the Republican Party to nominate a new candidate after the primary to replace Will, except for this:

A vacancy in a nomination following a primary election may not be filled … unless the nominated candidate:

  • 1. Dies.
  • 2. Would be unable to serve, if elected, as a result of a debilitating illness.
  • 3. Ceases to be a resident of the state or an individual nominated for legislative office will not be a resident of the legislative district at the time of the election.
  • 4. Ceases to be qualified to serve, if elected, as otherwise provided by law.

Well, that’s a problem. Someone, probably not Al Jaeger, but his neighbor across the hall, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, will have to decide if Gardner meets any of those criteria. That’s going to be a scramble, even for a highly partisan attorney general like Stenehjem.

This is going to be fun to watch. Not fun to watch poor Will Gardner endure the most humiliating event of his life (although one he brought on himself by trying to run for political office), but fun to watch the party suffering an embarrassment of riches try to find a way out of this hole.

Will Al Jaeger agree to run as an independent candidate for North Dakota Secretary of State, without any formal party endorsement, in November? You can be sure he’s thinking real hard about the answer to that question this morning.

One more thing: In The Forum’s story today, new Party Chairman Rick Berg (Welcome to your new job, Rick!) offered some very measured and thoughtful comments about this whole mess. I was impressed.

“This is like a piece of history here, so unique,” Berg said. “This process of self-governance is messy and it’s not perfect, but it’s the best form of governance in the world.”

I think Republicans have found themselves a good new chairman. Watch out, Democrats. Don’t underestimate this guy.

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