AUGUSTA — In a surprise decision, Democrats from Kennebec and Somerset counties are recommending a lawyer and state representative as an interim district attorney, instead of the deputy who’s on the job now.

State Rep. Maeghan Maloney, of Augusta, was selected as the nominee, according to Rita Moran, chairwoman of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee.

Maloney, 40, was vying for the position along with Deputy District Attorney Alan Kelley, 61, of West Gardiner. The interim position is available because former District Attorney Evert Fowle has been appointed a district court judge by Gov. Paul LePage.

Maloney won the preference of Democratic committee members in a 24-12 ballot vote held late Wednesday night at Waterville City Hall.

“Running for district attorney was an incredibly difficult decision because I love serving in the legislature,” Maloney said Thursday. But she said being district attorney would be “an opportunity for me to dedicate myself to the fight to end domestic violence in Maine.”

Maloney said she applauds LePage for making the fight against domestic violence a key piece of his legislative agenda.

LePage has the final say as to who is appointed interim district attorney until elections for a full term are held in the fall. Under state law, the replacement has to be from the same political party — in this case, Democrat — and LePage can only select from a list of names provided by the county party committee.

Committee members could have voted to pass both names on to LePage, but they only voted to recommend Maloney.

“Both candidates were, and are, highly qualified to serve as DA,” said Sarah Fuller, spokeswoman for the Kennebec County Democratic Committee. “Each individual member voted for a candidate based on his or her impressions and hopes for the direction of the DA’s office. To state why the committees as a whole voted they way they did would be sheer speculation.”

Fuller said LePage must select from candidates approved by the county committee. He can reject a name and ask the committee to resubmit another one, she said, but “he has to choose from a name we give him.”

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokeswoman, confirmed that the governor’s office received Maloney’s information on Thursday and it is being reviewed. She did not know when LePage would issue a decision.

Fowle, before resigning as district attorney, announced that Kelley, his deputy, was his recommended replacement.

Kelley on Thursday congratulated Maloney on her nomination and said he was appreciative of the support he had received from many people.

“It was my understanding that the statute, or past practice, has been for the committee to submit a list of names to the governor, so obviously I’m disappointed they decided not to submit my name as well as Representative Maloney’s to the governor,” Kelley said.

In November 2001, Kelley ran as a Republican against Fowle, and it was a cordial campaign that Fowle won. Kelley switched his party affiliation to Democrat several years ago.

According to her law firm’s website, Maloney has practiced law for 11 years and has an office on Drew Street.

Maloney said she grew up in the Tall Pines low-income housing project in Lewiston and her close friend often told horror stories about home life. Maloney graduated from Harvard Law School in 1997 and worked as a prosecutor in Portland, Ore.

Later, she received a Henry Luce Fellowship to work on stopping domestic violence in Asia. She returned to Maine and worked as an assistant attorney general.

In 2010, she was elected as a legislator for District 57, which covers part of Augusta.

“Now is the time to apply all I have learned to end domestic violence in Maine,” she said.