JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Dear District 8 Republicans: Please Vote For The Dead Guy

As if this election year isn’t crazy enough already, in one of the most maudlin election tactics I’ve ever seen, North Dakota Republicans are urging voters to cast their ballots for a dead man.

This bizarre recommendation comes from North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Rick Berg (not to be confused with Rick Becker, a real bizarre Republican) in the case of the election for a state representative from District 8.

Now one of those Ricks is a friend of mine (hint: not the Becker one), and he’s just doing his job, and he’s not going to mind that I’m writing about him, or this. As long as I don’t get mean. (If I was writing about the other Rick, I’d likely get mean.)

A brief review: This past winter, District 8 Republicans rejected the nomination of longtime Rep. Jeff Delzer, instead endorsing two newcomers, David Andahl and Dave Nehring. All three ran in the primary in June. Doug Burgum put up a few hundred thousand dollars to get rid of Delzer, a legislative nemesis, and Delzer lost the primary. So all year long, he’s been on his way out of the Legislature after more than 20 years.

And then the unthinkable happened.

Andahl got COVID-19 and died this week, just four weeks before the election. But the voting has already started, and it’s too late to replace him on the ballot. So Republicans, led by Berg and incumbent District 8 State Sen.Howard Anderson, are telling District voters to go ahead and vote for the dead guy because if he gets more votes than the two Democrats on the ballot, the District 8 Republicans get to pick a replacement.

“All votes cast for him (Andahl) will be counted,” Secretary of State Al Jaeger told a reporter for Forum Communications on Tuesday.

And Party Chairman Berg told the reporter the party is encouraging residents in District 8 to cast their votes for the two Republicans on the ballot, Andahl and Nehring.

I’ve been around politics for a long time, but I’ve never seen a state party chairman urge voters to vote for a dead guy.

And here’s where it get really interesting. Andahl and Nehring got the endorsements at their district convention this past winter by stacking the convention with a lot of new faces. But when it comes to picking a replacement, the job would fall to the district’s executive committee, which I suspect is still made up of rank-and-file longtime district leaders, most of whom probably supported Delzer at the convention.

So guess who would get to go back to the Legislature?

And guess, Gov. Burgum, who would get to continue to chair the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, the powerful House Appropriations Committee, the committee that is going to determine how much money your administration gets to spend for the next two years?

District 8 used to be a Democratic-NPL stronghold before Republicans swung it over to the Republicans through reapportionment. It’s now been 30 years since District 8 sent Democrats Bob O’Shea and Julie Hill to Bismarck. They’ve got two pretty good candidates this year, but there’s not a lot of Democratic voters in rural Burleigh County, which makes up the bulk of the district now.

So we’ll see. If the script plays out the way Rick Berg wants it to, Jeff Delzer will continue to be the House Appropriations Committee chairman, a job Berg once held himself, if I recall right.

It could be a long session for Gov. Burgum.

I don’t know when Andahl’s funeral will be, but I’ll be curious to see if Jeff Delzer’s in a pew. Funerals, after all, are good places to campaign in the waning days of an election.

And then, on election day in a few weeks, a vote for David Andahl will actually be a vote for Jeff Delzer. The guy whose head is seen here sticking out of a suit coat.

Anybody ever seen a year like 2020 before?

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