Thursday, July 1, 2010

West Virginia Update: Gov. Manchin Won't Hold Special Election for Byrd Replacement Until 2012

Whoever West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin appoints to fill the late Senator Byrd's now-vacant seat may be serving until November of 2012. As it stands, on Nov 6th 2012, West Virginians will take to the polls and vote twice for the same seat- once to replace Manchin's appointment between November 2012 and January 2013 (what would've been the end of Byrd's term) and once to vote for who will fill the senate seat from 2013 onwards [This is similar to what NY Governor Paterson arranged for New York's 29th Congressional district, only minus the interim appointee and it takes place over the course of 2 and a half years versus six months- NANESB!].

The decision has puzzled and infuriated some state officials.
State Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a 2012 candidate for governor, called the current process of having an appointment and then a dual election in 2012 both "bizarre and absurd."

"I can't imagine that was the legislative intent when they passed this statute years ago. I think this needs to be addressed," Kessler said.

"Generally, I would favor a broader reading of the law that would let the people choose a longer-term representative. But this is entirely in the governor's hands. Only he can call us into special session."
West Virginia already held its primaries in May this year and Gov. Manchin (a Democrat) may be reluctant to call for a sepcial election in a year when Democrats are expected to lose seats in both the House and Senate.

Some of the names being mentioned as Manchin's appointee include Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, West Virginia DNC Chair and one-time Manchin aide Larry Puccio, former State Democrat Party Chair Nick Caset and State Senate President Early Ray Tomblin. While rumors have been circulating that Manchin himself is interested in Byrd's seat, it is highly unlikely that he would immediately name himself as replacement. The more likely scenario is that he would serve out the rest of his term as governor (which ends in 2012) and campaign for the Senate seat his final year in the Governor's Mansion.

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