Blair County Republicans elected Chairman A.C. Stickel to another term in a 69-58 vote Wednesday, putting an end to his second consecutive challenge from GOP activist Lois Kaneshiki.
Stickel's victory ended the three-week wait that followed an unprecedented June 25 tie among Republican committee members. At that meeting, Stickel's and Kaneshiki's supporters were evenly split 59-59.
"This is the longest meeting we ever had. It lasted three weeks," Stickel said, laughing as the last of dozens of supporters offered handshakes and hugs at the Bavarian Hall. "I've never seen it before, and I hope I never see it again."
Some party members portrayed the race as an ideological and stylistic split between supporters of Stickel, a 6-year incumbent and a more mainstream, establishment-friendly Republican; and Kaneshiki, a former Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania chairwoman and head of the Pennsylvania Republican Liberty Caucus.
In a speech before the vote, Stickel pressed party unity and urged members to stand together.
"This committee belongs to all of us," he said, promising to work "not for you, but with you."
The candidates' opening statements reflected their divisions: Stickel described the values that led him to the Republican party - "faith, family and freedom" - while Kaneshiki, pounding her hand on the podium, accused the state GOP of backing left-leaning candidates and controlling the party from the top.
Despite a seemingly divisive few weeks, most of the party members chatted amicably as the meeting broke. Kaneshiki and Stickel spoke briefly after a short address from the victor.
"This is a clear victory," said Donna Kephart, one of a few non-committee members asked to wait outside when the meeting began. "This is 'get everybody out on both sides and see what the vote is.'"
Kaneshiki said she'll continue to work with the Blair County Republican Women, the county party and the Liberty Caucus, with her attention now focused on helping Gov. Tom Corbett's re-election campaign in November.
After the win, Stickel wasted little time turning the meeting to fundraising, one of his primary responsibilities, as he reminded party members to buy tickets for a Corbett visit later this month.
"It's all about getting Republicans elected," he said.