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Legislative candidate who advanced in high-profile primary race dies; ballot can't be changed

Legislative candidate who advanced in high-profile primary race dies; ballot can't be changed

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A Bismarck-area legislative candidate who defeated one of North Dakota's most powerful lawmakers in the June primary has died, and there is no apparent recourse for replacing him on the general election ballot as mail-in voting has already begun.

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Monday confirmed to the Tribune that Republican District 8 House nominee David Andahl had died. Jaeger did not know the circumstances of Andahl's death. The state Republican Party later issued a statement saying Andahl had died Monday, but the party did not provide further details.

Party Chairman Rick Berg in the statement offered prayers "on behalf of all North Dakota Republicans."

"As a racer, Dave was always on the go, serving his community on the Burleigh County Zoning and Planning Commission and in his race for the North Dakota House of Representatives," Berg said. "We celebrate his memory, while we mourn the loss of his friendship and leadership.”

State law has provisions for filling a sitting legislator's seat upon a vacancy, but Andahl had not yet been elected and "we can't pull the ballots back at this point," Jaeger said.

"At this point, the election is going forward, there's nothing else we can do right now, and as far as what happens down the road, we're busy researching that since we only found out about it about an hour ago," Jaeger said late Monday afternoon.

Republican District 8 Chairman Loren DeWitz told the Tribune that he was consulting with Jaeger's office "to see what the process is." 

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Andahl was a rancher and businessman north of Bismarck who said he was running for office to help guide North Dakota with a conservative perspective, to boost the economy and to improve government. He told the Tribune earlier this year that he would fight for coal jobs, as well as for farmers and ranchers.

He teamed up with Dave Nehring, who owns a habitat planting business, to clinch District 8 Republicans' endorsements and voters' nominations over longtime incumbent Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Nehring did not immediately return a text message regarding Andahl. Delzer did not immediately return a phone message.

The primary election drew attention from Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who gave more than $1.8 million to the Dakota Leadership PAC, a political committee that successfully targeted Delzer's seat in the primary. Delzer did not advance to the Nov. 3 general election, and he told the Tribune after the primary that he thought Burgum's influence in the race was "not right."

Before the 2019 Legislature convened, Delzer led a rule change that shifted how lawmakers considered Burgum's proposals. Burgum later said he felt his executive budget had been "tossed in the garbage." Delzer said all of Burgum's proposals were fully vetted and many were adopted, and that the rule change was years in the making and added more transparency in budget writing. 

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, has said Burgum's donations influenced Delzer's race, and "there will be difficulties in the future," referring to relationships with the governor, who is seeking reelection.

Democrats Linda Babb, of Bismarck, and Kathrin Volochenko, of Mercer, are the Democratic-NPL District 8 House nominees.

Sen. Howard Anderson Jr., R-Turtle Lake, is running unopposed for District 8's Senate seat.

District 8 covers a swath of the state east and north of Bismarck. State lawmakers take office Dec. 1 for four-year terms.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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