North Dakota man who died of Covid-19 wins seat in state legislature

Voters enter a early voting site inside the Bismarck Event Center as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Bismarck, North Dakota, October 26, 2020.

Bing Guan | Reuters

A North Dakota Republican who died of Covid-19 last month has won a seat in the state legislature, according to unofficial results posted by the secretary of state’s office.

David Andahl was one of two Republicans elected to represent the state’s 8th District in the North Dakota House of Representatives, earning more than triple the votes of the nearest Democratic candidate. Dave Nehring won the other seat.

The Associated Press reported in October that Andahl had died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 55.

“He had a lot of feelings for his county … and wanting to make things better, and his heart was in farming. He wanted things better for farmers and the coal industry,” his mother, Pat Andahl, told The Bismarck Tribune at the time.

North Dakota Covid-19 cases are rising sharply.

Johns Hopkins University

State officials told the newspaper that it was not clear what would happen if Andahl won the election.

“What we have found is most legal authority, the general rule is that the next person up (in the November election results) does not rise up,” Legislative Council Director John Bjornson told the newspaper. He added that it was “all new. We haven’t encountered this, that we’re aware.”

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger said in an email Wednesday that the state would follow an opinion issued by the attorney general last month.

That opinion indicated that Andahl could be legally elected but that his death creates a vacancy, which should be filled via an appointment from the state’s Republicans.

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in North Dakota, where the test positivity rate has climbed above 12%, according to local health officials. Nearly 50,000 people in the state of about 750,000 have tested positive and 555 have died.

According to the unofficial tally, Nehring won 6,763 votes, or about 40% of those cast, and Andahl won 5,901, or about 36%. Voters could choose two candidates. Democrats Kathrin Volochenko and Linda Babb won fewer than 2,000 votes each, for about 12% and 10% of the vote.

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