More than once this week I have heard grumblings from Republicans that incumbent Secretary of State candidate Al Jaeger may be in trouble. I hesitate to believe such things without any polling to back up the idea, but Democratic candidate Josh Boschee has undoubtedly taken the fight to Jaeger in the days leading up to the general election.
In a Wednesday press conference, Boschee blasted Jaeger as being ill-prepared for the upcoming election. In making his case, Boschee propped up pictures on each side of himself showing the long-time Secretary of State sitting at his desk surrounded by stacks of papers. The picture is fairly well-known in political circles and has become symbolic of what Boschee and others have said is an outdated and disorganized office. You can see it below.
In addition to the pictures, Boschee also pointed out the fact that nearly 2,700 general election ballots in Mercer County went out recently without Independent U.S. House candidate Charles Tuttle’s name on them. An error that requires setting aside and voiding the incorrect ballots as they come in and printing and mailing new ones. Jaeger is blaming Mercer County for not double checking the certified ballots. Boschee says this is just another example of Jaeger blaming others instead of accepting responsibility himself.
Unfortunately for Jaeger, this wasn’t the first time his office has sent out ballots that were missing the name of a candidate. In 2010, the Libertarian candidate for Public Service Commission, Joshua Voytek, was also left off the June Primary ballot due to missing paperwork. Because of the snafu — and in spite of North Dakota law requiring a minimum of 300 votes — Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem determined that Voytek’s name would appear on the general election ballot— which it did.
This has been a tough year for Al Jaeger. The arguments currently being made against him by his Democratic opponent are the same ones that were used by many in his own party leading up to last April’s NDGOP State Convention in Grand Forks. Not only were these arguments made by those within his own party, but they worked. Jaeger was dethroned at the aforementioned convention by newcomer Will Gardner.
Unfortunately for Gardner, a 12-year old peeping incident later surfaced and caused him to withdraw his nomination after winning the primary election. This left Republicans with no nominee for the general election and Jaeger decided to throw his hat back in the ring as an Independent candidate. The NDGOP then changed their rules to allow them to issue a Letter of Support to someone besides a Republican. That letter promptly went to Al Jaeger. So, yes, in a way they’re recycling him. But he should at least be grateful that his convention speech hasn’t been released by the NDGOP. It was ugly— to put it politely.
To top things off, Jaeger isn’t only facing Democrat Josh Boschee, but former Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Michael Coachman tossed his hat in the ring as an Independent candidate as well. While Coachman doesn’t have the funding or name recognition that Jaeger and Boschee do, we’re left to wonder what kind of an effect he can have on the race if it is indeed close? If he pulls votes from anyone it is most likely to be Jaeger.
Even in Republican circles, Jaeger isn’t thought of as much of a campaigner. Over the years, he’s relied heavily upon name recognition. Which makes sense for someone that was first elected to the office in 1992. But this time he doesn’t have the word “Republican” next to his name. He finally caved and got a campaign website this go around. Yet, many feel his effort to be re-elected has been less than stellar and we’re left to wonder if name recognition is enough given the totality of things.
Indeed, could it be that in what is thought of as a “red state” that the long-time Republican incumbent is in trouble— this time to a Democrat? Obviously, the November 6th general election will provide us the final answer to such a question. In the meantime, if you’re interested, you can view a recent Secretary of State debate here: