A North Dakota politician who died in October from COVID-19 has won a seat in the state’s House of Representatives. According to CNBC, Republican David Andahl won a seat representing the state’s 8th District in spite of passing away in October at the age of 55.
Andahl was a cattle rancher and former race car driver who ran on a platform of advocating for farmers in the rural district outside of Bismarck. Though his family members claimed he was taking every precaution around the pandemic, he contracted coronavirus in October and passed shortly after being hospitalized. North Dakota officials could find no precedent for a candidate dying so close to an election, and they could not remove him from the ballot, as early votes had already been cast.
According to statements issued around the time of Andahl’s death regarding a possible win, it appears that he will have his seat filled by appointment, with members of the Republican Party choosing his replacement in the state House. State officials seemed pretty clear on the idea that Andahl’s seat would not be taken by other candidates, citing the opinion of the state attorney general. Andahl received twice as many votes as either of his Democratic challengers.
"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 Bismarck Tribune at the time. "This is all new. We haven't encountered this, that we're aware."
Coronavirus cases are spiking throughout North Dakota. Over six percent of the state’s population has tested positive for the virus. Since October, the average number of daily cases has climbed from around 500 new cases per day to over 1000 positive tests per day.