BISMARCK, N.D. — A powerful Republican North Dakota lawmaker who lost his seat after being targeted by Gov. Doug Burgum has been chosen by party activists to return to his old seat to replace a candidate who died before the election.
Rep. Jeff Delzer was named by Republican district activists at a nominating convention Wednesday night to succeed David Andahl, who died Oct. 5 from coronavirus complications.
District 8 GOP Chairman Loren DeWitz said Delzer was the only person nominated, and was approved 17-1 by the district's executive committee.
Delzer did not immediately return telephone calls Wednesday night.
Exactly who takes Andahl's seat is now the focus of a legal battle. Burgum, a Republican, appointed coal company executive Wade Boeshans to the seat. The state Supreme Court on Friday will hear arguments in the lawsuit filed by the governor.
Delzer is a bachelor farmer with a reputation for tight-fisted budgeting. He had served in the Legislature for parts of four decades from a sprawling rural district north Bismarck. But Delzer had clashed with Burgum over policy and spending priorities throughout the governor's first term.
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.
Nehring and Andahl were top vote-getters in the election this month for the two open over a pair of Democratic candidates.
A day after the election, Burgum appointed Boeshans to the open seat.
Republican lawmakers and GOP Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem contend only the legislative branch has the authority to fill the vacancy.
Democrats also agree that Burgum has no authority to fill the seat. They are set to argue in the state's high court that their candidate, Kathrin Volochenko, should be the next representative for the district because she got the next-highest number of votes in the race.