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Former North Dakota congressman, senator Andrews dies at 94

FARGO (AP) — Mark Andrews, who represented North Dakota in Congress for 24 years, has died at age 94.

Andrews died Saturday at Essentia Health in Fargo, according to Hanson Runsvold Funeral Home, which handled arrangements.

Appointed to fill the unexpired term of the late Hjalmar Nygaard in 1963, Andrews, a Republican, went on to serve eight more terms in the U.S. House before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980.

Andrews’ first try for statewide office, his 1962 run for governor against the popular Democratic incumbent William Guy, was unsuccessful. A year later he was elected to the U.S. House in a special election after Nygaard died in office.

From that point on, the physically imposing but down-to-earth man was considered virtually unbeatable, winning elections with large margins. In his 1980 race for the U.S. Senate, Andrews received 70 percent of the vote against Democratic businessman Kent Johanneson.

Andrews surprised some Republicans with his criticism of some of President Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. Andrews was one of seven Republicans who voted against Reagan’s fiscal 1984 budget. He was particularly critical of budget deficits, routine equipment purchased through military procurement, and the lack of warranties on military purchases.

The White House issued an unmistakable warning for Republicans to vote with the administration on tough issues, saying it would “help our friends first” in allocating the president’s time and energies for GOP candidates in election years.

Andrews responded: “People in North Dakota didn’t elect me to be a rubber stamp.”

Andrews’ defeat at the hands of Kent Conrad in the 1986 U.S. Senate race was considered one of the biggest political upsets in North Dakota history. Andrews said Conrad’s attacks during the campaign left him little time to tout his accomplishments for North Dakota.

“In essence what they said on November 4 was, ‘Hey Mark, you’re a nice guy, but the other guy’s a nice guy, too, and it’s time to let someone else have a chance,'” said Andrews, who had served on the Senate Appropriations Committee and tirelessly promoted North Dakota’s interests.

But after spending 24 years in Congress, Andrews said, “I’m sleeping better at night, and think I should write all those people who voted for Kent Conrad and thank them.”

Born May 19, 1926, in Fargo, Andrews earned a degree in agriculture from North Dakota State University before enlisting in the U.S. Army. Andrews earned an appointment to West Point, but he was discharged in 1946 because of a back injury. He returned to his family farm in Mapleton, North Dakota, and became involved in Republican politics.

He and his wife, Mary, had three children.