Known as “Dakota Dave,” David Dean Andahl was a walking, talking billboard for his home state of North Dakota.
He was president of Dakota Sports Marketing, where he promoted the state’s economic and tourism opportunities.
In late September, he became ill and was hospitalized in Bismarck. Shortly afterward, he died, following “a short battle with Covid-19,” his family said. He was 55.
Mr. Andahl was also interested in politics.
This year, he decided to run for the state House of Representatives. He cleared the first hurdle, winning a heated Republican primary in June against a longtime incumbent, State Representative Jeff Delzer, chairman of the powerful appropriations committee.
Mr. Andahl won the endorsement of two of the state’s most influential Republicans, Gov. Doug Burgum and Senator Kevin Cramer, with Mr. Cramer telling The Minneapolis Star Tribune that he backed Mr. Andahl “because we need more Trump Republicans in the state legislature.”
But at the same time, the coronavirus was surging across the country, especially in North Dakota. The state now has critically understaffed hospitals, and its rates of new cases and deaths per person are among the highest in the nation. Mr. Andahl, who already had unspecified health issues, was cautious about the virus, his family wrote on Facebook.
On Oct. 5, when he died, the election was a month away. At that point, it was too late to take his name off the ballot. On Nov. 3, the residents of District 8, a sprawling rural area north of Bismarck, elected him posthumously to the legislature.
A political squabble ensued over how to fill the seat. The governor sought to make an appointment but was blocked by the attorney general. The matter was unresolved and is in court.