Political deja vu: Jeff Delzer is back as ND House Appropriations chairman

State News

Governor Burgum is finding politics can be quirky and unpredictable.

During announcements of standing committee appointments Thursday morning as the 2021 Legislature organizes itself, District 8 Republican Representative Jeff Delzer was named chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

It’s a post Delzer held for nearly a decade until his defeat in the June 2020 primary election.

It’s a post Delzer regains after being named last month to the District 8 seat left open following the death of Dave Andahl just before the November general election.

FILE – In this Jan. 4, 2017, file photo, North Dakota House appropriations chairman Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, answer questions at a revenue forecast meeting in Bismarck, N.D

For Burgum, Delzer’s return essentially negates millions of dollars and political capital spent by the governor in 2020 trying to better orient support for his legislative agenda.

In June, it seemed Governor Doug Burgum had accomplished a politically eyebrow-raising feat — the defeat of a powerful fellow Republican in the primary election.

Burgum contributed $1.85 million of his own money to a political action campaign to defeat Delzer.

FILE – In this Dec. 5, 2018 file photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum delivers his budget address before a joint session of the North Dakota legislature in Bismarck.

Delzer and Burgum had been at loggerheads on numerous fiscal issues during previous legislative sessions and the governor decided it was time to eliminate his nemesis at the ballot box.

And, indeed, when the ballots were counted in the June primary, Jeff Delzer lost in his bid for re-election to two Republicans backed by Burgum: David Andahl and Dave Nehring.

But, again, politics and life can be unpredictable at times.

Dave Andahl died in October, a month before the November General Election. Too late to have his name pulled from the ballot, District 8 voters nonetheless went on to elect Andahl to one of the two seats up for election.

Which created a vacancy that needed to be filled.

Gov. Burgum moved quickly to fill the seat with his own pick, BNI Energy President Wade Boeshans.

But North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the governor didn’t have the authority to fill the seat — that was a legislative, not executive, prerogative.

Meanwhile, North Dakota Democrats said the seat should be filled by the person who finished third in the general election, Democrat Kathrin Volochenko.

The matter went to the North Dakota Supreme Court, which ruled on November 24 that the power to fill the seat was with the district committee of the political party the former member represented.

In other words, since Andahl was a Republican candidate in Distrct 8, the District 8 Republicans had the right to fill the seat.

Which they did — with Jeff Delzer.

And, with today’s appointment of Delzer as House Appropriations chairman, it’s virtually certain he and Burgum will have much to talk about when the 2021 session begins in January.

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