Dustin Gawrylow: Attacks on Gardner Are Petty and Vindictive


TOM STROMME/Tribune Will Gardner announced his candidacy for secretary of state at a press conference on Friday. Gardner plans to challenge incumbent Al Jaeger at the upcoming North Dakota Republican convention.

This guest post was submitted by Bismarck resident Dustin Gawrylow.

This weekend there are two races at the North Dakota Republican Party state convention that really matter: nominations for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Secretary of State.

I have personally known Will Gardner for many years, and have had enough in depth discussions on the issues facing North Dakota to know that he is the right choice for Secretary of State.  His background in the IT industry, in the judicial consulting industry, and as a family man will allow him to do the job effectively.  Unlike most candidates I have supported in the past, Will is not a “rock the boat” type of person.  He is a “let’s get the job done” type of guy.

In the last week or so, the race has gotten very mean and vindictive since former Fargo Forum editor Jack Zaleski unleashed one of his classic tirades, this time against Will Gardner.  Anyone who has followed Zaleski, or been a target of Zaleski’s ire knows that when he attacks someone that is a pretty good confirmation of that person’s conservative credentials.

Representative Jim Kasper knows this as well as anyone, and I was disappointed to see him give any credit to attacks by Zaleski on a conservative like Will Gardner.

When it comes to the office of Secretary of State, there are a few issues that matter:

  1. Lack of up to date technology – the issue of software upgrades have plagued the office for at least a decade.  There are a few areas that are “up with the times”, such as the online campaign finance reporting system that has gone live in the last few years. But this is one very rare area.  The office of Secretary of State still requires paper filings for most if not all business and non-profit filings.  In this arena, North Dakota is basically 20 years behind the times.  Millions of dollars have been spent over the years for IT upgrades in the Secretary of State’s office, and the public has seen little improvement in the ease of interacting with this agency from that spending.  It is unacceptable that a state that promotes itself as being pro-business has not gotten with the program and with the times on the issue of technology.
  1. Selective Enforcement – anyone who has been involved with the initiated measure process knows that not all petitions and petitioners are treated the same.  I won’t get into the nitty gritty, but there have been many instances where similar situations have been treated differently when they should have been treated the same.  One of the biggest jobs of Secretary of State is that as referee (incidentally, Will is a high school soccer referee).  Fairness and even-handedness is required of anyone who holds the office.
  1. Powers Reserved to the People – the initiated measure process itself is very important to North Dakota; so much so it has its own entire article in the state constitution.  The Secretary of State should not be involved with testifying in favor of legislation designed to make the initiated measure process more difficult for citizens.  The Secretary of State should in fact be advising the legislature on how to make the initiated measure process more citizen-friendly.  This will be very important in the coming years as the legislature has shown in recent years that it would like to clamp down on the rights of citizens to petition their own government.  The expected recommendations of the current Initiated Measure Commission will create a need for a Secretary of State to be an advocate for The People.

You will notice I have not mentioned Al Jaeger.  That is intentional because you should never vote against someone, you should vote for someone who will treat the role of Secretary of State as it should be treated. Secretary Jaeger has served North Dakota for over two decades and should be thanked for his service to North Dakota.

Please consider voting for someone who can take the office of Secretary of State into the next decade.

Please consider voting for Will Gardner this weekend in Grand Forks.