W. Va. governor picks ex-counsel to temporarily fill Byrd's Senate seat

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) has appointed his former general counsel, Carte Goodwin, as interim replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).

At 36 years old, Goodwin will become the youngest member of the Senate when he is sworn in Tuesday.

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Manchin announced his pick at a Friday afternoon news conference at the statehouse.

“I’ve waited to make this announcement because it’s important to do this right,” Manchin said. He called Goodwin “fiercely independent” and said “we have gone toe-to-toe many times.”

“I will have no agenda other than working to fight hard every day for West Virginia families,” said Goodwin.

Goodwin said he expects to lean on the experience of the state’s senior Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D) in what he expects will be “lots of work in a very short period of time.”

Rockefeller, who was present at the announcement, said come next week Goodwin will be the 60th vote in what is “a very necessary piece of legislation.”

“We will take up and pass unemployment legislation,” Rockefeller said.

The Senate Democratic leadership in Washington is anxious for Goodwin’s arrival. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is banking on his vote to pass the extension of unemployment benefits.

Goodwin said he was reluctant to give specifics on his policy positions, but he did make it clear that he does not support the cap-and-trade proposals currently before Congress.

“From what I’ve seen they are simply not right for West Virginia,” he said. “I will not support any piece of legislation that threatens any West Virginia job or any West Virginia family.”

Manchin is an opponent of cap-and-trade and has said he would not appoint someone who favored the plan.

Goodwin’s selection makes political sense for Manchin given the governor’s own desire to eventually occupy the Senate seat. Democratic insiders described Goodwin as a close confidant and said there’s no concern Goodwin would be anything other than a placeholder until a special election is held to fill out the remainder of Byrd’s term.

On Friday, Goodwin was asked if he was interested in a general-election run; he responded that he was not.

Goodwin first met Manchin after volunteering on his gubernatorial campaign. He later served as the governor’s general counsel from 2005 to 2009. Since leaving the governor’s office, Goodwin has been a partner at his family’s Charleston-based law firm, Goodwin & Goodwin.



Goodwin hails from a prominent West Virginia political family. His uncle is a federal judge and his late father headed West Virginia University’s Board of Governors.


Goodwin’s wife, Rochelle, is Rockefeller’s state director.

Meanwhile, the state legislature is still debating the governor’s proposed fix to the state’s election code. Manchin is asking lawmakers to approve legislation quickly so he can call a November special election.

But both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have objected to certain provisions of the bill. Some lawmakers say it gives too much power to the governor and the secretary of state to determine timelines for the special election process.

Manchin is widely expected to announce his own bid for the seat once the legislature wraps up the special session.

On the Republican side, a run for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) appears increasingly unlikely. She offers Republicans the best chance to defeat Manchin, but under current state law, Capito would have to resign her seat in the House to run for Senate in a special this November, a step advisers have indicated she is reluctant to take.

On Thursday, Republican businessman John Raese said he was considering a run for the seat. Raese ran unsuccessfully against Byrd in 2006.