Those in charge of selecting a ballot replacement for 17th District Republican state Rep. Rod E. Wilt aren’t sure who is supposed to tell the public about a process that puts enormous political power in the hands of 14 people, or even who those people are.

State and local Republican officials who were asked Wednesday about the effort to nominate a replacement for Wilt, who said last week he wouldn’t seek re-election, gave conflicting answers as to who should release the names of the applicants or committee members appointed to pick the nominee.

Bill Kirk, chairman of the Mercer County Republican Committee, said the state committee was overseeing the process because it involved more than one county and thus was responsible for giving out the names.

Scott Migli, executive director of the state Republican committee in Harrisburg, disagreed.

“If the county parties want to release that information, that’s their prerogative,” he said.

Migli confirmed that the state committee is involved because the 17th District includes parts of Mercer, Crawford and Lawrence counties. But its responsibility is restricted to simply presiding over the committee’s meeting, which he said will occur behind closed doors.

Migli said the situation is “not something that happens every day, but it’s not totally uncommon either.”

“This may be the most consequential vote those 14 people ever cast,” said Dr. Michael L. Coulter, professor of poltical science at Grove City College, explaining it’s significant because they’ll be selecting a Republican nominee in a largely Republican district.

Coulter also argued that’s all the more reason for making the names of the applicants and committee members public.

“I think it’s in the best interest of everyone to have it as open as possible,” he said. “It will just give voters more confidence in the process.”

Kirk said Wednesday “conferees” have already been selected for the committee, but it could be another week before they meet.

Friday is the deadline for those interested to apply for the ballot position. As of Wednesday, Kirk had received two applications and knew of two more people who planned to apply from Mercer County. He was uncertain how many people, if any, had submitted applications in Crawford or Lawrence counties.

Kirk said the interest generated in Mercer County, which appears to have control over the selection of a nominee because it has 10 of the committee’s 14 members, was about what he expected. He also said if the number of applicants is “manageable,” the selection process should finish pretty quickly, perhaps within days of the committee getting together.

“If we suddenly should have an enormous number, say a dozen — which I don’t expect — it would take longer,” he said.

Wilt, 42, of Sugar Grove Township, earlier this month announced he would not seek re-election after 10 years in Harrisburg. His announcement came about three weeks after he had secured the nomination running unopposed in the Republican primary.

Also facing no opposition, Democrat Frank Weaver, 56, of Wilmington Township, Lawrence County, won his party’s nomination in May and will face the Republican nominee in November.

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