One of the most interesting political races during this 2018 election cycle has been the North Dakota Secretary of State’s race. In March, the Democratic-NPL threw their support behind District 44 Representative Joshua Boschee when they gave him their endorsement at their State Convention. The NDGOP followed in April with newcomer Will Gardner unseating incumbent Al Jaeger at their State Convention.
In a state dominated by Republicans, it appeared that Gardner was on his way to establishing a new era in the Secretary of State’s office. Surely — it was thought — he’d be a shoe-in for the office when the general election rolled around. Then a bombshell— news hit that Gardner had an embarrassing peeping incident in his past. This quickly became an issue for his campaign and he formally withdrew his nomination after winning the June primary.
As I had suggested that he would, in the aftermath of Gardner’s incident coming to light, current Secretary of State Al Jaeger promptly announced his intentions to run as an Independent to retain the office he now holds. With the NDGOP out of options and facing the reality of literally having nobody on the ballot in November, they changed their rules and decided to recycle Jaeger by issuing him a Letter of Support after the June primary was held.
As it stood, it appeared we were headed for a showdown between the underdog Democrat and the recycled-incumbent-Republican-turned Independent. Then another twist was added to the race. Prior to the September 4th filing deadline, former Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Michael Coachman decided to throw his hat in the ring as an Independent candidate as well. In essence, Coachman’s candidacy means we have a Democrat and two Republicans on the ballot— with Coachman being thought of more as a Tea Party type candidate.
Without question, Michael Coachman is the lesser known of the three candidates that North Dakotans will be choosing between on November 6th. As you can see in a brief bio on his website, Coachman is a retired Air Force veteran. He served from 1977 until he retired in 1997, while stationed at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. One of his responsibilities was working with missiles. He holds three Bachelor’s degrees from Park University in Management, Human Resources Management, and Marketing. Since his retirement, among the many things he’s done is work with disadvantaged youth.
The things that stick out the most when hearing from Coachman are his vocal commitment to God, his family, the Constitution, and integrity. He believes in working collaboratively with people and he feels that too often candidates fail their constituents, after being elected to office, by not following through with the promises they’ve made. Indeed, Coachman believes we need more statesman and less politicians.
As you can see on his website, Coachman has a plan for his First 100 Days if he were elected. In a nutshell, he’d have a complete “inventory” done of the entire office, identify problem areas, and immediately begin making and implementing plans to make the Secretary of State’s office more efficient. To Michael Coachman, making the office more visible to the people and being transparent are essential. He expects to be held accountable for the duties he’s constitutionally obligated to perform and the promises he makes as a candidate.
Among the responsibilities of the Secretary of State’s office are to sit on various boards, commissions, and advisory capacities. Michael Coachman especially recognizes the importance of serving on the Board of University and School Lands. This board consists of the Governor, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Attorney General, and State Treasurer. They manage the Common Schools Trust Fund that is now headed towards $5 billion. This fund was created as a result of statehood and was designated “for the support of the common schools”. Coachman says that there’s something to the argument that the fund is not being used as intended for funding education.
Perhaps the most prominent issue at the moment in regards to this race is the controversy surrounding voter ID, with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of North Dakota’s law. Coachman says that it’s important to ensure that only legal North Dakota residents vote in our elections, but that tribal relations must be improved. He would work with tribal leaders to resolve concerns about voter suppression.