BISMARCK — A Republican candidate for the North Dakota House of Representatives died from COVID-19 on Monday, Oct. 5, a month out from Election Day and with no way to replace his name on the November ballot.
In a statement to The Forum, Andahl's parents Pat and Ron Andahl confirmed that the District 8 candidate died after a brief battle with the coronavirus. They noted that their son had been cautious about the virus because of several preexisting health complications, but that he was unable to hold off the illness once he got it.
"David was a kind, caring man whose greatest joy was helping others," the family wrote in their statement. "He has been a public servant for many years and was looking forward to the opportunity to serve in the state legislature. We are sad that his wish will not come to pass."
Andahl's death also came as a shock to members of the North Dakota Republican Party. The party's national committeewoman Lori Hinz expressed condolences to Andahl's family. "It's just shocking and sad," she said. "I'm just very sad for his family."
As recently as Sunday morning, Andahl's candidacy was promoted on his campaign Facebook page. "Election Day is fast approaching," read a post from 8:39 a.m. Sunday, citing Andahl's years of experience on the Burleigh County Planning & Zoning Commission. "I listened to my constituents and worked collaboratively with my colleagues to find solutions. I will bring this same approach to the legislature, representing your concerns in District 8. I appreciate your support!"
Republican Party Chairman Rick Berg addressed Andahl's death in a statement released Monday evening. "On behalf of all North Dakota Republicans I would like to offer my prayers to a great Republican, David Andahl. As a racer, Dave was always on the go," Berg wrote. "We celebrate his memory, while we mourn the loss of his friendship and leadership."
Early voting in North Dakota has already begun, and Secretary of State Al Jaeger told The Forum that it's too late to replace Andahl on the November ballot. "There's no way to remove him," Jaeger said. "At this point he can't be replaced on the ballot, but people can still vote for him."
Republican candidate Dave Nehring and Democratic candidates Linda Babb and Kathrin Volochenko will also appear on the ballot for the District 8 seat, but Jaeger said he and his office are looking into the protocol for how to handle a potential Andahl win this Nov. 3.
A Bismarck native, Andahl was a rancher as well as an avid race car driver. He attended Century High School in Bismarck, in addition to studying at Bismarck State College and North Dakota State University, before going on to a career in motor racing, training and coaching after college.
Andahl rose to prominence in the state Republican Party earlier this year after pairing up with Nehring to win a primary challenge over longtime House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, in the rural District 8 race north of Bismarck. Andahl's primary challenge drew statewide attention as it earned the endorsement of Gov. Doug Burgum, whose Dakota Leadership PAC spent significant dollars to support Andahl's successful bid to unseat Delzer.
Prior to his District 8 candidacy, Andahl spent 16 years on the Burleigh County Planning & Zoning Commission, and served as the commission chairman for eight years.
"We thank all of you who have supported David in the past, and we ask for your continued support and prayers as we make arrangements to celebrate his life," Andahl's parents wrote.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.