Dogged by window peeping arrest, Gardner officially bows out of ND secretary of state race

FARGO - Will Gardner has made it official: The endorsed Republican candidate in the North Dakota secretary of state race filed notice that he's withdrawing from the field.

FARGO – Will Gardner has made it official: The endorsed Republican candidate in the North Dakota secretary of state race filed notice that he’s withdrawing from the field.

Gardner’s official exit, filed Thursday, June 14, according to a Facebook post by Gardner, was expected after he announced he would withdraw shortly after The Forum reported that, in 2006, he had been arrested in connection with a window-peeping incident outside a female dormitory at North Dakota State University.

“Last night I submitted my withdrawal from the race for Secretary of State,” Gardner wrote in the Facebook post. “I am enormously grateful for the countless calls from community leaders, friends, family and many others asking me to stay in the race. I am also grateful for the tens of thousands of votes from people across the state.”

In the Tuesday, June 12, North Dakota GOP primary, despite announcing his intention to drop out, Gardner got 93 percent of the vote, while write-ins got the remaining 7 percent. There were no other names on the GOP ballot in the race.

Al Jaeger, who has been secretary of state since 1993 but lost the party’s endorsement to Gardner early this spring, is circulating petitions to get his name on the ballot in the November election as an independent candidate.

Jaeger will appear Saturday, June 16, when the North Dakota Republican executive committee meets in Fargo and will seek a letter of support from the party for his independent candidacy in the November election.

In his Facebook post, Gardner thanked his wife and family for their strong support. “Even more, their forgiveness for my mistakes and, especially my wife’s unconditional love, that has surrounded me during even some of (the) most challenging times of our marriage, is a grace, blessing and great unmerited gift. However, I can’t expect the same thing from my party. Forgiveness can’t be forced, only requested.”

Gardner said his “leadership would have been a great asset,” but credited Jaeger, whom he said “will defend the most important aspect of the office, our voter ID laws, which are under enormous attack.”