Senate races

Manchin open to Nov. 2010 special election to fill Byrd’s Senate seat

West Virginia Gov. Joe
Manchin (D) indicated Wednesday that he was open to a November 2010 special
election to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s Senate seat and said he would
consider running in that election.

In his first public comments
on the process to succeed Byrd (D-W.Va.), Manchin said he believes “two and half
years for me to appoint someone to replace this giant, Robert C. Byrd, is far
too long.”

{mosads}But Manchin stopped
short of fully endorsing a special election for this fall. He said he had
directed the state attorney general’s office to file a formal opinion on the
state’s election code in light of the confusion. Manchin said he would not
appoint anyone or move forward with the succession process until the AG’s
office weighs in.

The governor did not give the
AG’s office a deadline to file a written opinion, but he said he hoped it would
come by next week. After that, Manchin said he would move forward with naming
an appointee.

Manchin said state Attorney
General Darrell McGraw (D) “should be given an opportunity to provide clarity
to this issue.” West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) did not
consult the attorney general’s office prior to rendering her opinion on the
state’s election code last week — a point of contention for the AG’s office.

Manchin also said that
if a special election were to be held this fall, he would “highly consider”

However, he ruled out
appointing himself to the position. 

“I believe in the power of
the vote,” he said. “I believe in the election process.”

Some labor and business
groups in the state have been calling for Manchin to appoint himself to the

Manchin is highly popular in
the state and has pledged to serve out his term as governor, which is up in
2012. He is also expected to ascend to the chairmanship of the National
Governors Association at the NGA’s annual meeting at the end of this week.

He would have to break his
pledge to run in a 2010 special election.

If a change in the state’s
election code is required to move up the election process, Manchin would have
to direct the state legislature to revisit the issue during its special
session, which is scheduled to begin July 19.

Manchin did not say whether
he would ask the state legislature to make the change, but he left open the

Tennant is standing by her
interpretation of the state’s election code, but has come out in support of a
November 2010 special election. However, she said that remedy does require the
legislature to amend state law.

As it stands now, Manchin
would appoint someone to fill Byrd’s Senate seat until a special election is
held in November 2012. That election would pick a candidate to fill the five
weeks remaining in Byrd’s term. On the same ballot, voters would elect a
candidate for a full six-year term.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito
(R-W.Va.) also weighed in on the process for the first time Wednesday. Capito
wants a special election this November. She is widely considered the top
Republican contender for Byrd’s seat or for the governor’s office in 2012
should she decide to run for either.

There hasn’t been an open
Senate seat in West Virginia for 26 years. Byrd was in his ninth term when he
died last Monday. Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has held his seat for five

— This post was updated at 11:51 a.m. and 12:20 p.m.

Tags John Rockefeller Shelley Moore Capito
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