GOP candidate for ND secretary of state top vote getter despite exiting race

FARGO -- Will Gardner, the endorsed Republican candidate for secretary of state, drew 93 percent of the vote in unofficial returns in the GOP primary despite withdrawing from the race after news reports surfaced of his arrest years ago for window...
Will Gardner accepts the Republican Party's endorsement for Secretary of State at the 2018 convention. Gardner's 2006 charges for peeping into dormitory windows have recently come to light. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

FARGO -- Will Gardner, the endorsed Republican candidate for secretary of state, drew 93 percent of the vote in unofficial returns in the GOP primary despite withdrawing from the race after news reports surfaced of his arrest years ago for window peeping.

Republicans gave write-in candidates 7 percent of the vote in the North Dakota primary Tuesday, June 12, with 396 of 424 precincts reporting in unofficial, incomplete results. Write-ins weren’t tallied because there was no official GOP write-in candidate in the race, although Al Jaeger, who currently holds the office but lost the endorsement to Gardner at the Republican convention, is trying to get on the November ballot as an independent candidate.

Assuming that Gardner honors his withdrawal pledge, Tuesday’s GOP primary for secretary of state will be a moot exercise.

Gardner, a Mandan businessman and political newcomer, exited the race two days after news broke last month that he had been charged in connection with a window-peeping incident outside a female dormitory at North Dakota State University in 2006, when he was 29.

Gardner’s exit came too late for the Republicans to endorse another candidate in the secretary of state primary. GOP leaders quickly announced that they would support an independent candidate after Jaeger, elected to seven terms as a Republican, said he would collect petition signatures to appear on the November ballot as an independent.

On the Democratic side, Joshua Boschee, a Fargo legislator, is the endorsed candidate and the only Democrat vying for the secretary of state job. Incomplete, unofficial results showed Boschee with almost 100 percent of the vote.