The Blaine and Hill county commissioners have cast their votes, but whether their selection to take an open state Senate seat will accept was unknown a half hour after their vote.
After listening to Harlem insurance agent Don Richman and retired state employee Les Bender of Havre answer questions and make comments for more than an hour and a half, the combined commissions, using a secret ballot, selected a nominee who was not present — Havre businessman Craig Tilleman.
But, Hill County Republican Chair Andrew Brekke and the members of the Blaine County Commission said, Tilleman wanted to withdraw his name from consideration.
Blaine County Commissioner Dolores Plumage had told the commissioners in a conference call Monday that he was withdrawing his name, but he had submitted nothing in writing.
Hill County Commission Chair Mike Wendland said during the meeting that Tilleman, vice president of Tilleman Motor Co., told the Hill County commissioners during a meeting that he had business with General Motors in Detroit, and could not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller said the commissioners had asked Tilleman Monday to fax them a withdrawl notice, but had received nothing before the meeting Tuesday night. The meeting was held to select a replacement for Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, who resigned in July. The commissioners cannot take action without something in writing, Miller said.
Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said that while he was talking to the Hill County Commissioners to say he would not be at Tuesday’s meeting. Tilleman said he did not want to campaign for re-election next year — Hutton’s replacement’s term will end in 2012 — but that she never heard him say he was withdrawing.
Brekke was attempting to contact Tilleman in Detrot after the meeting, but had not reached him at the time of this article’s writing.
As the district Hutton represented, Senate District 17, includes parts of both Blaine and Hill counties, a joint committee of Republicans from both counties were required to submit nominees to a joint session of both county commissions to select his replacement.
Due to Hutton being a resident of Hill County and having received a higher percentage of votes in Hill County, under state law Hill County commissioner votes counted for 26.04 votes each, while the votes of Blaine County commissioners counted for nearly 7.29 each.
The final count of the votes in the secret ballot gave Tilleman 52.08 votes, Richman 47.91 and Bender 0.