Manchin spokesman: No plans to change Byrd succession process

After speculation swirled Wednesday that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) might revisit succession plans for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), a Manchin spokesman told the Charleston Gazette the governor has not considered it.

The State Legislature will be in a special session in mid-July, and several lawmakers suggested Wednesday that the governor may put the election issue on the agenda for that session.

But Manchin spokesman Melvin Smith told the Gazette the governor has not held any discussions about doing so:

"The governor told me he's strictly focused on making sure we honor the memory of the late senator," Smith said. "He won't address anything involving this seat until after the memorial services."

Smith's statement seems far from definitive, but West Virginia state Senate President Earl Tomblin also said that Manchin informed him in a phone conversation Wednesday that he has no plans to inject the issue into the special session.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said there would be no special election to fill Byrd's seat until November 2012, at which point 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 Manchin appointee would occupy the seat until 2012.

But in an interview with The Hill late Wednesday, Tennant said while she stands by 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."