When the appointment of a county executive came before the commissioners for action Wednesday night, McCarthy told board chairwoman Lisa Scheller he felt it appropriate for him to leave the dais “and I ask that the clerk note my vote as an abstention.”

While the room was crowded with people attending the commissioners meeting about other issues, no one from the public stood to express support for either Croslis or McCarthy or to ask any questions about the candidates or the process.

Only a few commissioners spoke before the vote.

Jones said on paper the two candidates might seem equally qualified to become county executive. But he said only McCarthy has been chosen to represent and lead the county’s residents, when he was elected county commissioner “on three separate occasions.”

Jones said commissioners would be disrespecting the county’s voters and shirking their responsibility if they failed to appoint McCarthy to “the highest office in the county.”

“The voice of the people ought to be recognized.”

Osborne also expressed a preference for McCarthy, saying he “has been through many of these issues, including budgets, for the last 11 years and will be able to give the perspective, experience and guidance through that process in a way that will serve the citizens of Lehigh County.”

Schware thanked both candidates for coming forward and said he could find no fault with either “other than the fact that both are attorneys.”

After the vote, McCarthy returned to his seat at the dais. When Scheller asked if he wanted to say anything, he replied: “I’m back.”