LEWISBURG — Republican conferees in Pennsylvania's 85th legislative district on Thursday evening chose David Rowe to be their nominee in the Aug. 20 special election to fill the seat vacated by Fred Keller, who is now representing Congressional District 12 in the U.S. House.

Rowe defeated Ben Ranck 9-8 in a roll call vote, that was later changed to unanimous by party regulars.

Rowe, currently vice chair on the East Buffalo Township board of supervisors, will face a Democratic opponent who will be chosen next Thursday night.

Four candidates were seeking the nomination: Rowe, Ben Ranck, Darwin Swope, and Clair Moyer. But the 17 Union and Snyder County Republicans, chosen as voting conferees, placed only Rowe and Ranck into nomination.

“The 17 conferees,” explained Carolyn Conner, chair, Union County Republican Committee, “were comprised of nine from Union and eight from Snyder counties. That number was based upon the votes for President Trump in the parts of the county that lie in the 85th district.”

All nine Union County conferees voted for Rowe; the eight Snyder County conferees voted for Ranck. According to the state Republican Committee bylaws the winner only needed to exceed 50 percent of the vote.

The Republican nominating conference was open to the public and more than 60 people filled a meeting room at the Country Cupboard to support their favorite candidates or to simply be there to watch the process.

After Rowe and Ranck were placed into nomination, each had five minutes to address conferees and make a case for their vote.

Rowe stressed his business acumen, his experience as a no-tax-hike EBT supervisor, a small business owner, and a strong commitment to conservative principles, such as the Second Amendment and Right to Life. Ranck, a longtime colleague and assistant to Fred Keller during his years in the state House, stressed his electability, his experience and knowledge of how state government works. He also said he was a supporter of the Second Amendment and was pro-life.

After the vote, Rowe thanked the conferees "for the confidence they have placed in me as the Republican nominee. Let me acknowledge Congressman Fred Keller, who admirably served the people of Snyder and Union County for eight years in the state legislature. I am proud to call Fred a friend and I can only hope to live up to the standards he has set. Now it is time to turn our attention to the Aug. 20 special election. We must come together as a Republican party and keep the district in Republican hands, and we cannot take anything for granted."

Union County Republican Committee chair Carolyn Conner, after the vote said, "Well we have our nominee. I thought either David or Ben would have been strong nominees."

Conferee Matt Schumacher, a colleague of Rowe's on the EBT board of supervisors, said, "Well, now, Char [Gray, chair, EBT board] will have to get together and find someone we can appoint for the remainder of his term, which is up this November."

Schumacher believes Rowe will represent the district "just as good as Fred did."

Rowe, after the meeting broke up, said he was still deciding when he would retire from the EBT board. "I'll decide on that within the next couple of days," he said.

Ranck after the vote, said "it will be an interesting summer. I wish David luck."