Who will take David Andahl’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in the North Dakota House of Representatives?
Arguments from several parties made their cases to the state Supreme Court Friday morning.
Andahl died with COVID-19 about a month before winning his election.
The day after that election, Governor Doug Burgum announced he believes he has the right to fill the seat. He selected coal executive Wade Boeshans.
Republican leaders in District 8 feel they should fill the seat. Earlier this week they announced Jeff Delzer as their choice. Delzer was defeated by Andahl in a June primary challenge largely funded by donations from Burgum.
And the Democratic-NPL party says Kathrin Volochenko should take the seat.
A lawyer for Volochenko argued Friday that, while she took a distant third place on Election Day, she should represent District 8 at the State Capitol.
“There is no vacancy here, number one,” said David Thompson, an attorney representing Volochenko. “Kathrin Volochenko was the second highest vote-getter of the qualified candidates.”
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and a lawyer for the District 8 GOP argued that Burgum should not have a say in the matter.
“The Separation of Powers Doctrine prohibits one branch from encroaching on the central prerogatives of another,” Stenehjem said.
“To set aside the clear will and choice made by the voters in District 8, I submit, would categorically disenfranchise them and their intended outcome,” said John Olson, an attorney for the District 8 Republican Committee.
But Governor Burgum’s lawyer had a different perspective. He said Jeff Delzer’s defeat in the June primary weakens that case.
“The voters of District 8 expressly communicated their protest to the nomination of the very individual District 8 has now deemed to appoint to the legislature,” said Robert Pathroff. “Isn’t it more disenfranchising to force upon the voters of District 8 a person that they already rejected in the primary?”
It’s not clear when the Supreme Court will give an opinion on the issue.
The legislative session officially begins in January.