BISMARCK -- Longtime North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced a re-election bid Monday, Jan. 29, setting up a battle within the Republican Party for the statewide elected office.
And hours after Jaeger’s announcement, Democratic state Rep. Joshua Boschee said he would jump in the race.
Jaeger, a Republican first elected in 1992, said in a statement that he was proud of his record, including implementing new technology, conducting fair elections and managing the state’s records. He noted North Dakota has been listed No. 1 on the Pew Charitable Trusts’ elections performance index four election cycles in a row.
Prior to his wife’s death in late 2016, Jaeger, 74, said he was considering retirement but had “strong feelings” after last year’s legislative session that he should stay in office. He said he’s in “excellent health” and still has a lot to offer the state, including his institutional knowledge of government.
“I know what needs to be done,” Jaeger said.
Will Gardner, chief information officer at Mandan-based First Court, Inc., has already launched a bid for the office. He’s the former chairman of the District 34 Republicans.
North Dakota Republicans will hold their statewide convention in early April in Grand Forks.
Boschee, a realtor at Fargo’s Hatch Realty, was first elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, meaning he wouldn’t have to give up his legislative seat if he loses his statewide bid. He’s the state’s first openly gay legislator and last year pushed unsuccessfully for a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Boschee said he would hold a news conference Tuesday announcing that he’ll seek his party’s endorsement for Secretary of State. Democrats will hold their state convention in mid-March in Grand Forks.
Boschee said the Secretary of State’s Office could do more to implement technology to make business filings easier.
“We hear from small businesses, entrepreneurs and farmers all the time about how they want government to be efficient, to be effective and then get out of the way,” Boschee said. “And I think there’s plenty of opportunity for that in the Secretary of State’s Office.”
Jaeger said those efforts have been underway, noting a new “online functionality” allowing businesses to file annual reports, register new businesses and apply for licenses online should be available in late summer.