| USA TODAY
AP Top Stories November 24 A
Here’s the latest for Tuesday November 24th: Biden to name national security team; GSA signs off on presidential transition; Los Angeles County could implement stay-at-home orders; Millions traveling for Thanksgiving.
The North Dakota Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Gov. Doug Burgumdoes not have authority to fill a state House seat won by a man who died before Election Day.
The court unanimously ruled Burgum “does not have statutory or constitutional authority to make an appointment to fill the vacancy in this case.” Instead, the vacancy will be filled by Jeff Delzer, who has clashed with Burgum in the past, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
Burgum had argued the Constitution gave him the right to appoint someone to a state House seat won on Nov. 3 by David Andahl, who died Oct. 5 from coronavirus complications. The House district represents a sprawling rural area north of Bismarck.
Delzer, who has spent nearly 30 years in the state Legislature, was appointed last week by Republicans in the district, the Tribune reported.
‘He was looking forward to it’: Republican state legislature candidate in North Dakota who died of COVID-19 in October wins election
Andahl, 55, remained on the ballot, in part because early voting had begun weeks before his death.
“I feel sorry for the Andahl family for having to go through all this,” Delzer said. “It’s a shame he passed away and could not fill the seat. I am honored to be chosen to fill the seat and will do the best I can for the district and the state of North Dakota.”
Burgum, also a Republican, had originally appointed Wade Boeshans, a coal executive, to fill the seat on the day after Election Day.
“After extensive research, it became clear that the only legal and constitutionally viable way to fill the District 8 seat is through gubernatorial appointment,” Burgum said in a statement issued at the time.
‘This is unacceptable by any standards’: The Dakotas are ‘as bad as it gets anywhere in the world’ for COVID-19
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the court’s decision reaffirmed his earlier opinion. The court “agreed with the Attorney General that a mechanism to fill the vacancy existed in current law and the District 8 Republican Executive Committee had the authority to fill the vacancy,” Stenehjem’s office said in a statement.
“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 said in a statement.
In a statement, Burgum said he disagreed with the findings but added, “we respect the Court’s opinion and will continue to do our best every day to serve the citizens of North Dakota.”
Burgum gave more than $3.1 million to a political action committee that targeted Delzer. Backed by Burgum’s campaign cash, Andahl and Dave Nehring won the Republicans’ endorsements and voters’ nominations in the June primary.
Democrats also argued that Burgum lacked authority to fill the seat. They said Democrat Kathrin Volochenko should be the district’s next representative because she received the next-highest number of votes.
The Supreme Court dismissed that argument.
Contributing: Joel Shannon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press