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

Will Gardner accepts the GOP's endorsement for secretary of state at the party's 2018 convention at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Forum News Service

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 Forum News Service 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 Tuesday’s 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 when the North Dakota GOP 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.”

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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