November special election for Byrd Senate seat now a possibility

Some lawmakers in West Virginia now say they expect the state legislature to re-visit the succession plan for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) at a special session planned for next month. 

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said there would be no special election to fill Byrd's seat until November 2012, when two elections would be held — one to fill the roughly five weeks of Byrd's unexpired term and a second for the full six-year term. A person appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) would occupy the seat until 2012.  

Byrd died early Monday morning at the age of 92.

The legislature has a special session scheduled for mid-July to tackle education issues, but in a radio interview Wednesday, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones (D) said he expects Manchin to put the special election issue on the legislature's agenda for that session. 

It would require the governor to issue a proclamation to expand the scope of the legislature's planned special session, which the governor's office has not yet indicated it will do.

The office of Attorney General Darrell McGraw also said Wednesday it was looking into whether the secretary of state's office has the proper interpretation of the law. It also noted that the secretary's office didn't ask for any guidance from the attorney general in the interpretation process.

Tennant told The Hill she spoke with McGraw Wednesday afternoon and apologized for not giving his office a head's up on how her office had decided to interpret the election code.

Tennant said while she is confident in her interpretation, an official challenge to her decision is certainly within the realm of possibility.

"When you're dealing with elections it's probably never case closed," she said. "There are a lot of people looking for holes in this declaration I made."

Troy Berman, executive director of the state GOP, said political momentum in the state is on the side of those who want to re-visit the issue. "This isn't a partisan thing at all," he said. "It's coming from both sides."

A memorial service for Byrd is planned for Friday — neither side expects any definitive word from the governor's office before then.

-Updated at 6:05 p.m.