My print column for Wednesday is online already. It’s about the increasingly bizarre dynamics of North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican challenger Kevin Cramer.
I wanted to flag a part of the column in a blog post, however, because I think it’s important. Cramer campaign staffer Jared Hendrix, who was the manager of the campaign prior to Cramer announcing for the U.S. Senate, also did some early organizing for former Secretary of State candidate Will Gardner’s campaign.
That would be the Gardner who exited the race once a 2006 disorderly conduct conviction for peeping on college girls in their dorm rooms at North Dakota State University with his pants undone was reported on by my colleague Tu-Uyen Tran.
It turns out that Hendrix was aware of Gardner’s conviction, though when I asked him about it he claims that he wasn’t aware of the details:
Republican circles are also buzzing about Hendrix having knowledge of disgraced Secretary of State candidate Will Gardner’s peeping tom case prior to Gardner winning the NDGOP’s endorsement in Grand Forks back in April.
“I did not know any of the details of the case,” Hendrix told me saying the “lesson learned for me is to do a lot more due diligence on the people I support.”
Many Republicans blame Hendrix, an early organizer for Gardner’s campaign, for covering the 2006 incident up. You readers can decide if that blame is warranted, but that it’s hurting Cramer is indisputable.
There are other ways that Hendrix is creating problems for Cramer as well:
Jared Hendrix, a long time operative in North Dakota politics who is a member of Cramer’s campaign staff, has been dabbling in local Republican politics.
His boss is suffering the blowback.
Hendrix is supposed to be helping Cramer win the Senate race, but he apparently has time to meddle in legislative primaries in Bismarck, Williston and Minot.
I make no judgment on Hendrix’s machinations, but Cramer can hardly afford to have a member of his campaign staff making enemies in his own party with Heitkamp on his right flank trying to peel off Republican voters.
I can’t tell you for certain what Hendrix knew about Gardner at the NDGOP convention in April. Only Jared Hendrix knows that. He’s saying he knew about the conviction but not what it was for.
What I can tell you is there are a lot of Republicans who aren’t happy with Hendrix, feeling they cast their ballots as delegates at the convention without having all of the information, and some of that backlash is hitting Cramer too.
With Gardner out of the race, Republicans will have no candidate on their ticket for Secretary of State. Republican incumbent Al Jaeger, who was defeated by Gardner at the convention, will be on the general election ballot as an independent and will likely be endorsed by the NDGOP.
This post originally stated that Gardner was peeping on college students with his pants down. The police report from the incident merely said that his pants were undone. I’ve corrected the post to reflect that.