There’s no disputing the fact Mercer County Commissioner Michele Brooks had enough support Monday from a committee to earn a spot on the fall ballot as the Republican nominee in the 17th District.

What appears to be in dispute is whether that support was unanimous on the first ballot.

A day after local Republican officials said Mrs. Brooks secured the seat to replace state Rep. Rod E. Wilt by a 14-0 count on the first ballot, a state party official confirmed that wasn’t the case.

Michael Barley, a deputy political director for the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, said Tuesday from his Harrisburg office the committee — made up of Republicans from Mercer, Crawford and Lawrence counties — decided to make it a unanimous decision even though it wasn’t.

Barley said it was apparent she won right away after the first vote came through.

“She did win handily, the majority of the first vote,” said Barley, who was overseeing the meeting along with Allison Coccia, a political director for the state committee. “And after doing that they wanted to come out with a unified message in support for her candidacy. And that was the reason they did it.”

Bill Kirk, chairman of the Mercer County Republican Committee, told The Herald prior to the meeting the committee wouldn’t be releasing specific vote totals, that it would only announce the winning candidate. But when the voting was over, Barley said Mrs. Brooks had won with a unanimous vote on the first ballot.

Kirk confirmed Barley’s explanation, noting the committee offered the resolution to make it appear Mrs. Brooks had received unanimous support on the first ballot, but without any prompting from him or Ms. Coccia. He apologized if the public felt misled.

“They did it so there wouldn’t appear to be any division within the committee,” Kirk said. “And obviously at the end there was no division.”

Kirk also said it’s common practice when committees get together for selections such as this or endorsements to present a unanimous front once a candidate is chosen.

Candidate Lewis P. McEwen of Wilmington Township agreed. He said he expected the committee to do what it did no matter who the nominee was. He actually had a bigger problem with the two-week period leading up to Monday’s selection.

“It’s such a short time frame to get around and talk to people,” he said. “Since I never held an elected office, many of those people didn’t know me.”

As for the interview process itself, conferee Charles Mansell of New Wilmington believed everybody had a fair opportunity to present their case.

“There were time limits, but they were loose,” he said.

Each candidate was permitted to make a 5-minute presentation. That was supposed to be followed by two minutes of questions from the committee, but Mansell said as long as people were asking questions, they were allowed to continue. The average time overall for each candidate in front of the committee was about 11 minutes, including six minutes for questions.

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