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North Dakota Supreme Court won't let governor fill seat won by dead man

The North Dakota Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against Gov. Doug Burgum (R), saying he does not have the authority to fill the state House seat won by the late David Andahl (R).

The court ruled in a unanimous decision Thursday that Burgum "does not have the statutory or constitutional authority to make an appointment to fill the vacancy in this case," deferring authority to the District 8 Republican Executive Committee, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Andahl, 55, died on Oct. 5 from complications related to COVID-19, but his name remained on the ballot as early voting had commenced weeks before his death. He won the election with 35 percent of the vote.

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Burgum had previously appointed Wade Boeshans, a coal executive, to take the seat.

The committee will now select Jeff Delzer, a Republican who has clashed with Burgum in the past, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, a Republican, confirmed the Supreme Court's decision supported his earlier opinion on the matter, criticizing Burgum for prolonging the process unnecessarily.

"This entire exercise was a waste of taxpayer dollars and time, all of which could have been avoided had the Governor come across the hall to receive legal advice from the person who was elected by the citizens of North Dakota to provide legal advice to state officials," Stenehjem wrote in a statement.

Burgum released a statement Tuesday underscoring his disagreement with the findings but said the decision would be respected.

"We respect the Court's opinion and will continue to do our best every day to serve the citizens of North Dakota," the governor wrote.