HAMILTON - The widow of Republican Sen. Dale Berry of Hamilton, who died unexpectedly May 17, is expected to replace him in the Legislature. Two of the three Ravalli County commissioners charged with deciding Berry's successor said they will honor the local GOP central committee's preference for Dorothy Berry when they meet Thursday afternoon. Friday is the deadline to name a replacement.
The committee favored Mrs. Berry over two other nominees. She received 16 votes, Rep. Rick Laible, R-Victor, had seven, and Rep. Allan Walters, R-Hamilton, received six votes.
"If they feel this is the person they want, I'm hard-pressed to go against that," said Alan Thompson, commission chairman.
"They are elected by the people, this central committee, and they have spoken very loudly on what their selection is," said Commissioner Betty Lund. "When they speak, we should listen."
Thompson and Lund are Republicans.
The third commissioner, Democrat Jack Atthowe, said the central committee vote is just one factor in his decision. He said he will also consider the background and experience of the three nominees.
But he acknowledged the votes of the GOP commissioners will decide the issue.
Mrs. Berry said she decided to seek her husband's Senate seat after being encouraged by friends. "I would like to finish what he started," she said.
She said she accompanied her husband to the 1999 and 2001 legislative sessions and they discussed issues at length. She said she shares his views and philosophy, and will consider running for his seat next year.
Berry, a moderate Republican, was appointed to his Senate seat in 1998 when incumbent Steve Benedict, R-Hamilton, resigned on Election Day.
Berry was elected with 67 percent of the vote last fall. He died of a blood clot in his lung, three weeks after surgery on an Achilles' tendon.