Port: Andahl's death in District 8 creates tense political situation

Delzer would be a provocative choice for Andahl's replacement.

dave andahl.jpg
Dave Andahl. Special to The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota's political landscape is a bit darker this morning.

Dave Andahl, a long-time public servant in Burleigh County and legislative candidate this election cycle, is no longer with us .

I can't say I knew Andahl well. Just a few email exchanges over the years about things I'd written, and some conversations this year about his candidacy, but I've been doing this long enough to know when I'm talking to someone who is in politics for the right reasons.

Andahl didn't sign up for the intrigues of campaigning; he intended to serve and serve well. He was a class of North Dakota citizen that goes unheralded. The sort of person willing to give up time with family and friends and hobbies to do the important, out-of-the-limelight governing that makes our society work.

Andahl spent 16 years on the Burleigh County Planning & Zoning Commission, including eight years as chairman. He had knowledge and experience and principle, and he would have made one a hell of a lawmaker in Bismarck.


So it goes.

It is difficult to write about the political implications of this situation but, alas, the world keeps spinning.

Election Day is a month away.

Andahl cannot be removed from the ballot. The ballots have been printed. Many people have already voted, nearly 27,000 statewide, as I write this Tuesday morning.

By my reading of the law, the NDGOP has two options.

They could stage a write-in campaign for a new candidate. The risk is that write-in campaigns are tricky and, again, at least some people in District 8 have probably already voted. House races in North Dakota are for two seats in each district. Andahl was one of four candidates in this race (the other Republican, Dave Nehring, Democrats Linda Babb, and Kathrin Volochenko) and the top two on election day win.

With Andahl still on the ballot, a write-in campaign could split the Republican vote in the district and give one of the Democrats a win. That's not an appealing prospect for the NDGOP.

The other option, the most likely course of action, is to urge voters to cast a ballot for Andahl anyway. If he wins, the law says the local NDGOP district leaders would pick his replacement. A draft message calling on voters to do exactly this has already been circulated by incumbent District 8 Senator Howard Anderson (and shared with me by a local source).


Where things get a little tense is that most observers expect that committee, given its makeup, to pick current Rep. Jeff Delzer if given the opportunity.

Delzer is a Republican, and sitting chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, who has feuded with Gov. Doug Burgum during the latter's first term in office. He was defeated for the NDGOP's nomination for another term on the June primary by Andahl and Nering, whose campaigns were boosted by a political committee created and well-funded by Burgum .

Delzer would be a controversial choice for Andahl's replacement. If handed another term in the House, he would no doubt be out to settle some scores with Burgum and others.

The local committee shouldn't choose him, for a straightforward reason: Delzer was on the ballot in June, as the incumbent, and District 8 voters cast ballots to move on.

It's time for someone new.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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