The finger-pointing following the public disclosure of Will Gardner’s window-peeping past continues to escalate. Politically active North Dakotans are wondering if a reporter at the Fargo Forum dug up and uncovered this troubling past, or if someone with motivations leaked in ways to make sure it was publicly reported. Both are possible. Either way, the reporter did their job. Let’s consider the latter as people are buzzing about it.
The political blame I’ve seen playing out across media platforms and at local coffee shops are mostly coming from Republicans, and they’re pointing their fingers at other Republicans. Their claim is this was just the latest example of establishment Republicans sabotaging candidates that don’t fit into their club to force their way. They may be on to something if you consider a potential pattern.
If you look back at the open Governors race in 2016, it was establishment Republicans that pushed for public disclosure of Drew Wrigley’s marital woes. Lt. Governor Wrigley was a top candidate for the Governor position as was Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. It was well-positioned party members that ran around and told anyone and everyone about Wrigley’s situation hoping it would get out. Eventually, the news broke and Wayne Stenehjem, the establishment candidate, became the front-runner.
Doug Burgum upset those same people when he was successful in defeating Wayne Stenehjem later that year. Sometimes spending a lot of money, some of it being your own, can overcome the barrier. He has since bent over backward trying to get in their good graces. Life in North Dakota politics is a little easier if you go along to get along with those in the pulling the strings.
Ask Tom Campbell. He was attempting the Burgum model. Campbell spent over a quarter of a million dollars of his own money starting with his challenge for the U.S. Senate. At the beginning of 2018, it was establishment Republicans who dumped opposition research into a national right-wing publication. Three months later, following his defeat at the NDGOP convention, Campbell unexpectedly dropped his primary challenge to Armstrong. Word is, it was establishment Republicans who sat Campbell down and told him he needed to get out or else. Now, Campbell is out and he is losing his State Senate seat.
The latest very well could be Will Gardner and his campaign for Secretary of State. Timing lends itself to the rumors in Republican circles. This allows them to rally behind Al Jaeger and make sure the public thinks he is again their guy after delegates sent a strong signal he wasn’t. It didn’t take long for Garnder to be scrubbed from the NDGOP endorsed candidates page. The NDGOP has since issued a statement declaring support for Jaeger’s independent run. Was it Josh Boschee’s fundraising report from seven days earlier that made them panic about their endorsed candidate Gardner?
I have no doubt this information would have ultimately come out at some point in this campaign. It is public record and the public deserves to know the character of those asking for their trust. Gardner was right to withdrawal. He should have never attempted this run in the first place. Did he not think his disturbing act would come back to light when running for a public office? How was it not caught sooner in the endorsement process? People have begun to ask, who is behind these power moves?