BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota politician accused in a peeping incident at a college campus announced Sunday he is dropping out of the race for secretary of state.
Will Gardner's withdrawal from the race came two days after the Fargo Forum reported on the 2006 incident in which he was accused of peeping through a window at a North Dakota State University women's dormitory.
"In light of recent events, I have decided to withdraw from the election of secretary of state. This is the best decision for my family and me," Gardner said on his Twitter and Facebook accounts. The 41-year-old Mandan businessman did not immediately return voice or text messages from The Associated Press on Sunday.
Court records show Gardner pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in February 2006 and was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence and fined $225. The Forum reported the charge stemmed from an incident a month earlier in which Gardner, who was 29 at the time, was arrested for allegedly peeping in a women's dorm while working as a webmaster at the university's libraries.
The newspaper reported that responding officers said Gardner's pants were unzipped and the front of his shirt was pulled out.
Gardner won the GOP's endorsement for secretary of state in April over incumbent Al Jaeger, who was the longest-serving Republican official in the North Dakota Capitol.
The 74-year-old Jaeger, a former Fargo real estate salesman, has served more than two decades in the office that is best known for supervising elections. Jaeger was first elected in 1992.
Jaeger told the AP that Gardner called him Sunday "to say he was withdrawing from the race in the interest of his family." Gardner has seven children.
Jaeger said he is still interested in contesting the seat. "Obviously, I had interest in the past and now we have a new development," he said.
He said he would meet with GOP Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem on Monday "to find out what are the options going forward."
Gardner's name will still appear on the June 12 primary ballot. Fargo state Rep. Josh Boschee is the endorsed Democrat for the seat and will also appear on the ballot.
State Republican Party Chairman Rick Berg did not return phone calls on Sunday.
Any candidate may run in either party's primary by collecting petition signatures from at least 300 North Dakota voters. Jaeger elected not to do that and has missed the deadline for doing so.
Jaeger agreed that his options under state law include running as a write-in candidate in June, or as an independent candidate in November if he collects 1,000 petition signatures leading up to that election.
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