North Dakota Republican Who Died of COVID-19 Wins his Election

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A Republican political candidate in North Dakota died of COVID-19 in October. But that didn’t stop him from winning his campaign for State House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, the late David Andahl, a cattle rancher and land developer from the Bismark area, won a seat in the state legislature. He had run alongside David Nehring, a fellow Republican seeking the district’s other open seat. Nehring also won his bid on election night.

Public Servant

Earlier this fall, as coronavirus cases began to spike in the heartland, Andahl communicated that he was being “very cautious” with regard to his health. According to his family, the 55-year-old already suffered from certain health complications. But by the first of October, Andahl had to be hospitalized for his bout with COVID-19, which ultimately led to his death on October 5th.

Mourning his loss on Facebook, Andahl’s family wrote that “he has been a public servant for many years and was looking forward to the opportunity to serve in the state legislature. We are sad that his wish will not come to pass.” Andahl was a speed-racer in his early years, and more recently, a race car instructor. He also had a deep love for his home state, adapting the nickname Dakota Dave.

What now?

When Andahl died, North Dakota election authorities struggled to find a precedent for how to address a candidate’s death so close to an election. Ultimately, the state attorney general issued an opinion stating that if Andahl wins his contest, the local Republican Party should appoint a replacement until a special election can take place.

But while posthumous victories are unusual in the United States, they are not unheard-of. At least six dead candidates from every level of government – mayoral races to US Senate contests – have won various elections across the country since the year 2000.

Most notable was the 2018 death of Dennis Hof, a brothel owner and former star of the HBO reality series Cathouse. Hof was running for a seat in the Nevada state legislature when he was found dead at his Love Ranch brothel just outside Las Vegas.

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