Gov. Doug Burgum has appointed a successor to a Bismarck-area legislative seat won by a deceased Republican nominee.
Burgum on Wednesday morning appointed Wade Boeshans, of Washburn, who leads a coal mining company. The appointment came just hours after unofficial results in Tuesday’s general election became complete.
David Andahl, 55, of Baldwin, died Oct. 5 from COVID-19. His death was so close to Election Day with early voting already underway that the ballots could not be changed.
Andahl and Dave Nehring, of Bismarck, teamed up to win District 8 Republicans’ endorsements and voters’ nominations for the House seats, defeating longtime Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, in the June primary. Delzer is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and had tangled with Burgum over budget issues.
Burgum gave $1.85 million to a political group run by former advisers that successfully targeted Delzer’s seat.
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Andahl and Nehring won about 36% and 41% of the vote, respectively, against Democrats Kathrin Volochenko, of Mercer, and Linda Babb, of Bismarck, who won 11% and 10%, respectively.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem last month in an opinion said Andahl’s death, if he were to be elected, would create a vacancy that District 8 Republican party leaders could fill by appointment. District 8 Republicans continued to campaign for Andahl, seeing a path to appointing a successor if Andahl were to win.
The governor’s office issued a statement Wednesday that said "Unique circumstances require gubernatorial appointment to fill seat." It cited a state constitutional provision that “The governor may fill a vacancy in any office by appointment if no other method is provided by this constitution or by law.”
Burgum said in the statement that “After extensive research, it became clear that the only legal and constitutionally viable way to fill the District 8 seat is through gubernatorial appointment."
"Our hearts continue to go out to David Andahl’s family and friends," Burgum said. "There is no doubt he would have served the state well in the Legislature. The people of District 8 are entitled to full representation in the next legislative session, and Wade Boeshans is uniquely qualified to serve their needs."
Boeshans is president and general manager of BNI Energy, chairman of the Lignite Energy Council and president of the Bismarck State College Foundation.
"I’ll be a thoughtful legislator who will work tirelessly with my colleagues for our businesses, communities and family-supporting jobs to ensure the success of District 8 and the state of North Dakota," Boeshans said in a statement.
Volochenko on Tuesday night said she would consult with party leaders as to whether to pursue legal action regarding Andahl’s victory. The Democratic-NPL Party did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday regarding a lawsuit.
New state lawmakers take office Dec. 1 for four-year terms.