Over the years I have been consistently critical of Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s handling of his duties.
There have never been any large problems in his office, but there is a consistent stream of little ones, from goofs in administering elections and ballot measures to how slow his office has been to embrace modern technology for things like campaign disclosures and business filings.
It’s been clear for a while that someone else could be doing a better job. In fact, I think Republicans felt that way earlier this year when they endorsed at their state convention someone other than Al Jaeger.
Of course, that person’s campaign imploded in scandal, and now Jaeger is back on the ballot again. Not as the endorsed Republican candidate but rather as an officially independent candidate with a letter of endorsement from the North Dakota Republican Party.
His opponent is Democrat Josh Boschee, currently a state representative in Fargo’s District 44, and it will probably surprise a lot of you readers that I strongly considered voting for him.
Boschee’s politics are not mine. He is perhaps one of the most liberal members of the very tiny Democratic caucus in the House. But I like him on a personal level, and his ideas for the Secretary of State’s office are far more pragmatic than political. He talks of modernizing. He talks of efficiency. He talks of more collaboration with the state’s business community.
That’s what we need, and I think Boschee could be competent enough to pull it off.
I was all set to vote for Boschee, but then his political party went and decided to brand North Dakota’s voter ID laws as a bigoted effort to disenfranchise Native American voters as a cynical get-out-the-vote maneuver, and I have to say that I just can’t bring myself to do it.
One of the Secretary of State’s most important jobs is presiding over our elections. The person elected to that office is our top elections officer. Could we trust that Boschee would be a fair administrator? That he wouldn’t be sympathetic to the machinations of his political party when it comes to hot button issues like voter ID?
I don’t have that confidence, and the administration of our elections is too important an issue to leave it to chance.
At this point, given that Jaeger is on the ballot as an independent, Boschee may well have the best shot of any Democrat on the statewide ballot of winning on election day. Given the recent polling in the Senate race, I’d say he may even have a better shot at winning than Heitkamp.
But it won’t be with my vote. Not given the way his political party has handled North Dakota’s voter ID debate.
I suspect a lot of North Dakota voters feel this way about Democratic candidates. They may like them. They may even feel they have the right ideas. But it’s hard to trust them given their affiliation to a national Democratic party that doesn’t seem to care much for places like North Dakota.