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Filling Sen. Robert C. Byrd's Senate seat

By Paul Kane
With the death early Monday of Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D), West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) must select an interim replacement for a legend who many in the state and elsewhere consider one of a kind.

A quirk in West Virginia's laws appears to state that the replacement will likely hold the seat for the remainder of the late senator's record ninth term, through 2012; therefore, Byrd's death would not impact the partisan makeup of the chamber, nor would it directly impact the pending 2010 elections. However, there is some ambiguity in the law that has left some election experts questioning the what should happen with the seat.

State law mandates that, if a Senate vacancy occurs more than 2 1/2 years before the term is up, a special election be held to fill the seat. There were exactly two years, six months and five days left in Byrd's term when he died.

However, the law states that the special election would only occur after a candidate "has been nominated at the primary election next following such timely filing and has thereafter been elected."

Because West Virginia held its 2010 primary almost two months ago, many election law experts read that provision to mean that the "next" primary would not be until spring 2012, before the general election in November, 2012. Some legal experts, speaking privately out of deference to Byrd's family, wondered whether this wording could open a legal challenge and force a special election this November, similar to those happening in Delaware and New York to fill the remainder of Senate terms vacated by Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The issue of Senate succession, however, has simply not been an issue in recent West Virginia history--Byrd has held his seat since January 1959, and Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) has held his seat since 1984. Had Byrd lived another week, the issue would have clearly been moot, since it would have been less than 2 1/2 years until the end of his term.

Manchin did not immediately issue a statement about his selection process after Byrd's death was announced early Monday. Late Sunday, after aides to Byrd said he remained hospitalized and "seriously ill," Manchin said he was praying for Byrd's recovery: "West Virginians need his leadership in Washington. Sen. Byrd is a true champion for our state," Manchin said in a statement.

Byrd's successor will be the sixth senator appointed, rather than elected, to office since the start of the 111th Congress in January, 2009.

It's unclear which party benefits most from the potential timing of the next Senate election in West Virginia. Many Democrats will look to Manchin to run for the seat, but party strategists do not want him to appoint himself as the interim senator because of the inherent political awkwardness in such a move.

Assuming the interim appointment lasts through 2012, Democrats may not want Manchin to appoint a caretaker senator, as those appointments have created some political headaches for the party. In Delaware, for example, Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) was appointed to fill Biden's seat but will not run to retain that seat in the next election. In Massachusetts, Paul Kirk was appointed to succeed Edward M. Kennedy (D) but did not seek the seat in the special election that was won by Republican Scott Brown.

In 2006, Republicans tried to recruit Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), the daughter of former governor Arch Moore, to challenge Byrd. She passed on the race but has been considered a potential statewide candidate ever since.

By by Paul Kane  |  June 28, 2010; 8:05 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , 44 The Obama Presidency , 50 States  
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Next: Sen. Robert Byrd: A YouTube retrospective

Comments

Senator BYRD passed away Monday morning, it is in print, at his passing the Senate Seat became vacant. The first line of the ELECTION CODE clearly states that a candidate will be chosen at the next GENERAL ELECTION. It does not say that a primary must be held first, and it does not say that the secretary of state may withhold the time of vacancy until after July 3 2010 so that the governor can appoint a DEMOCRAT. Every WV VOTER should be out raged by this underhanded scheme to deny the VOTERS a chance to choose the candidate and put in one of their own. There are many West Virginians who deserve a chance at this seat, and in this case the candidates would not just be REPUBLICANS or DEMOCRATS, But a real choice of the WEST VIRGINIA VOTERS. Join the SCREAM about the establishment denying us our VOTE as the CONSTITUTION says. WRITE, EMAIL, CALL and SCREAM, SCREAM and SCREAM AGAIN FOR YOUR RIGHTS TO CHOOSE THE CANIDATE OF YOUR CHOICE.

Posted by: twolynnsfarm | June 30, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

LogicalSC is typical of the right-wing liars, idiots and delusionals who throw filth without knowing what they are talking about. Byrd was famous for NOT enriching himself. He WAS famous for enriching his state, which, being one of the nations poorest, needed enriching badly. And to say Ted Kennedy was in it for the money is so notoriously a lie as to expose you as someone who won't let a fact stand in the way of a good slander. But then, lies, slander, delusions and malice are the mother's milk of all Republicans, especially Southerners, who took their vileness with them when they changed moved to the GOP, thus turning the party of Lincoln into the party of Thurmond, Helms, DeLay, Inhof, etc,, the party of right-wing neo-Nazi crackpots, the party of NASCAR America.

Your braggart name suggests you're from South Carolina. Well South Carolina is the home of one of the choicest states in the Union, who gave us the nastiest politicians in US history, John C. Calhoun, who seceded then made war on the United States to preserve slavery, who maintained thier mean, racist culture by appointing Strom Thurmond for life; and who are now the bedrock of the extreme right wing of the GOP. You deserve everything you get from John Stewart -- a nation's ridicule and contempt.

As for your buddy, the well-named thebump, you toe are peas in a pod -- equally endowed with that fine balance of of stupidity and malice, the prime ingredients of the GOP base. No, Bump, if you bothered with facts you'd see that the Republicans gained the majority only when the old Southern Democrat bigots made a pact with the devil and switched parties. The list of them is endless, for not only the politicians, but of course their constituencies, moving where the prefect combination of bloodymindedness, bigotry, greed and that beckoned. No, they didn't take their evil to the grave. If they repented they stayed Democrat, if the evil was hardwired, like it is in you and LogicalCS, then they moved to the GOP.

The truth is, that you Republicans ARE the party that the Democrats were in the days of the KKK. The young Robert Byrd you should be proud of, if your were honest, but you're also hardwired for hypocrisy, so why be honest when you can get your jollies malgining people you hate?

Posted by: lbjack | June 28, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

92 years old! well it is hard to leave the good life...We have to many members of congress that are too old. Bless them, but they do nap during debates and often miss important votes...Lets again put a limit to the time serve and age.

Posted by: akeegan2 | June 28, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

92 years old! well it is hard to leave the good life...We have to many members of congress that are too old. Bless them, but they do nap during debates and often miss important votes...Lets again put a limit to the time serve and age.

Posted by: akeegan2 | June 28, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

92 years old! well it is hard to leave the good life...We have to many members of congress that are too old. Bless them, but they do nap during debates and often miss important votes...Lets again put a limit to the time serve and age.

Posted by: akeegan2 | June 28, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

92 years old! well it is hard to leave the good life...We have to many members of congress that are too old. Bless them, but they do nap during debates and often miss important votes...Lets again put a limit to the time serve and age.

Posted by: akeegan2 | June 28, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

The whole point is the man just passed. Regardless of your political views, show some respect. His family deserves it.

Posted by: carltonbleitch | June 28, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

A shamelessly dissembling moonbat says, "the originators of all that racism moved to the Republican Party."

Uh, no, the founders of the KKK and the inventors of apartheid went to their graves proud, loyal, unrepentant, rock-solid, true blue DIMWITCRATS.

Posted by: thebump | June 28, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Hello, Brucewla --

"It kills me how the Democrats, who owned the slaves, founded the KKK, wrote Jim Crow laws, etc, seem to always get away with..."

It kills decency how Republicans try to hide the fact that the originators of all that racism moved to the Republican Party, disgracing the blood sacrifice of Abraham Lincoln.

No, you don't have Byrd to hide behind any more.

"'Oh we Democrats have changed.' BS"

Really? Strom Thurmond changed to avoid supporting Democratic civil rights initiatives. He became a Republican.

Does it kill you that 20% of Republicans voted against the Civil Rights Act along with Byrd?

Because outside the South, only 2.7% of Democrats voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Are you listening? Most anti-CRA Southern Democrats became Southern Republicans, and only 2.7% of non-Southern Democrats voted against the 1964 CRA, compared to 20% of Republicans.

That isn't shame that Democrats wear. That is Republican shame.

"The dems founded the KKK."

Yes, and Native Americans were once the majority in North America.

But lately is another story, a story you don't want told.

Not many KKK have bumper stickers that say Obama, Kennedy or Pelosi.

For decades, the Republican Party has been the party of choice of discerning KKK white trash.

Is it Byrd's party or the Republican Party that, in the 21st century:

- Does not have a single elected black American serving in the U.S. House or Senate?

- Sent 32 of its 50 state delegations to its 2008 presidential nominating convention without a single black American among the delegates choosing their nominee?

- Chose a Republican Senate Leader -- in the 21st century -- who praised the ugly white supremacist presidential bid of an ugly white trash racist?

In Byrd's youth, nearly 3/4 of a century ago, he joined a northern KKK chapter that had no record of committing actual acts of violence against black Americans.

And almost that long ago, around 1950, he left the KKK.

But Trent Lott's political and philosophical mentor, his uncle Arnie, was a top leader in Mississippi's White Citizens Council that paid for the defense of the assassin of Medgar Evers in Mississippi.

And during Clionton's presidency, the Republican Senate Majority Leader was caught raising money for a segregated, white supremacist school in Mississippi.

Many Republicans knew he was a racist fundraiser when they picked him to be their Leader in the 1990s, and all Republicans knew he was a fundraiser for white supremacists when they picked him to be their leader in 2001.

No, Brucewla, you don't really have to belong to the KKK to be a racist.

No way the Republican Party can deny that fact.

Posted by: Ripley123 | June 28, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I love all the KKK references. Byrd was in his 20s when he joined the Klan; by the time he was in his 40s he had left and over the course of his life he admitted many times that it had been a mistake. How many of your petty little lives would stand up to public scrutiny?

Posted by: darrellcochran | June 28, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

WV messed up its laws by moving its primary so early, as did a lot of other states whose legislators were thinking only of becoming more important to presidential candidates.

The statutory scheme is meant to allow appointment unless there is time for candidates to campaign before a primary election. The primary has passed, so the replacement should be appointed.

If this matter goes to court, I hope the judge won't have too much trouble figuring this out. And WV should clarify its law.

Posted by: pundito | June 28, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Byrd is the epitome of what is wrong with the "representatives" in Washington today.

He has been in office for 9 terms? He was first elected in 1954? That is a sad history.

50 years of this "public representative" enriching himself and his entire family by stearing huge amounts of money toward companies and agencies headed by family members. All at the expense of the taxpayer.

With the end of these career grafters, like Byrd and Kennedy, may we enter a new era of representatives who do not use these offices as self-enriching fiefdoms.

Posted by: LogicalSC | June 28, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Well the answer is simple.

IF the USA is really a democracy, then an election will be held, regardless of whatever undemocratic succession rules politicians have devised.

Otherwise, just proceed with pretending you have a democracy and appoint someone, ursurping the voice of the people.

Senators are elected on more than just their party branding. To award the representation the a party without giving the people voice is in effect taxation without representation.

Posted by: HuguesdePayens | June 28, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Well the answer is simple.

IF the USA is really a democracy, then an election will be held, regardless of whatever undemocratic succession rules politicians have devised.

Otherwise, just proceed with pretending you have a democracy and appoint someone, ursurping the voice of the people.

Senators are elected on more than just their party branding. To award the representation the a party without giving the people voice is in effect taxation without representation.

Posted by: HuguesdePayens | June 28, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

vintel7 and isometruman1, good posts.

Conservatives/Republicans, for all their self-righteousness and religiosity, are really atheists. If they weren't they would be in constant fear of going to hell, for they are everything God tells us not to be.

I really get exasperated at Democrats, but I'll tell you, come Judgement Day, they will have far less to answer for than the Republicans. Robert Byrd, former KKK member, will have far less to answer for than those who smear him.

Posted by: lbjack | June 28, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Well the answer is simple.

IF the USA is really a democracy, then an election will be held, regardless of whatever undemocratic succession rules politicians have devised.

Otherwise, just proceed with pretending you have a democracy and appoint someone, ursurping the voice of the people.

Senators are elected on more than just their party branding. To award the representation the party without giving the people voice is in effect taxation without representation.

Posted by: HuguesdePayens | June 28, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Younger folks need to take a deep breath.

It really doesn't matter what West Virginia does. Nor does it matter very much what the rest of the country does. The Senate is corrupt. No single senator is likely to change that corruption and neither will the Republicans.

We used to reserve the word "corruption" for "other" countries. But in the past twenty five years it has become rampant in our own culture. The Supreme Court's latest decision allowing free donations by corporations will bring us to a political apocalypse that this country has never seen before and will likely bring it down even more quickly than the "W" administration (which got it's start with people on training wheels in the RR administration) .

Our children and grandchildren must get used to the fact that we are quickly becoming a second rate country if not a developing country-beggars at the feet of the Chinese, the Indians and the Brazilians.

So, elect or appoint whoever you want to. It won't make any difference until we revise the constitution to establish tests for education, public service and a resume worthy of rule. We must at the same time obliterate the minority control of the filibuster. The Bill of Rights protects the minority in this country. The Congress is supposed to vote to protect the majority. And of course we must stop legalized bribery through private funding of campaigns.

When those gigantic and impossible steps are taken maybe, just maybe, we can begin to ascend again.

Posted by: llex | June 28, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

No, the law is actually very clear. It states, and this is from W. Virginia's government web site, that if the vacancy occurs with 2 years and 6 months left in the term, a special election will be held, the governor can appoint an interim placeholder, but the election will be held this November. http://www.sos.wv.gov/elections/voter-information-center/officesissues/vacancies-and-unexpired-terms/Pages/default.aspx

Robert Byrd died prior to the July 3rd window, so W. Virginians are going to have to vote for a new senator this year. Perhaps this was Byrd's last hurrah, as he's always considered himself a champion of the constitution, and it's clear that a democrat majority in the senate is showing itself to be a clear threat to the constitution. The people of W. Virginia and the US will not tolerate the tampering with the law, to falsely maintain that majority.

Posted by: jenn3 | June 28, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

"It's going to be hard to find a former KKK member to fill that seat"

If he's a Republican he won't need to be a KKK member -- he'll already have the credentials.

It's ironic that the name-callers are as racist and bigoted as Byrd ever was. And far more greedy and mean-spirited. For all his faults, Byrd did more good in one day than the insects who smear him here will ever do in their pathetic little lives.

Posted by: lbjack | June 28, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I can only hope that a special place in Hell has been reserved for Mr. Byrd, the Exalted Cyclops of the KKK.

Posted by: bankroller | June 28, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

lifelongleaarnerdss said "Hey Gatecrasher, I know liberals usually don't understand what they read, so why don't you try it a 2nd time: "State law mandates that, if a Senate vacancy occurs more than 2 1/2 years before the term is up, a special election be held to fill the seat. There were exactly two years, six months and five days left in Byrd's term when he died." Read it slowly a few times, maybe that will help.'
_______

But lifelonglearnerdss needs to learn to follow his own advice; read it again and read the whole thing. The WV law requires that the election follow the primary, which already occured 2 months ago, as the article states. By truncating what you quote you can totally change the meaning, and you do not have the power to relegislate. The article describes the source of the confusion, which is that one's reading needs to be careful and considered. The literal reading - which conservatives always howl about being the correct course - is that the election need not be held until 2012. Now your Miranda reading: Be careful what you say, as it may be held against you, lifelonglearnerdss.

Posted by: enough3 | June 28, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Can't we just let Blago fill this seat? He needs the money for his legal defense.

Posted by: johne37179 | June 28, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Republicans are the heartless, compassion-less "evil doers" that the bible warns about during the end times. They act and believe themselves to be "saved" even though their behavior and their lack of empathy and compassion qualifies them for the lake of fire. Wait until their deaths when they discover that they had it all wrong.

Posted by: vintel7 | June 28, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Can't we just let Blago fill this seat? He needs the money for his legal defense.

Posted by: johne37179 | June 28, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

@brucewla
go read a little bit about Democrats, Republicans, and racism. Today's GOP is the former racist Democratic Party. George Wallace originally, a Democrat. Strom Thurmond - Democrat. Jesse Helms - Democrat. Trent Lott - raised as a Democrat, but was a Republican by the time be entered politics. In fact, Lott is the prototype racist Republican dog. Hiding behind history. Once the Democrats came to their senses and embraced morality and let all citizens be citizens, the bigots bolted for safe harbor in the GOP. Don't distort the truth. GOP = bigotry, intolerance, ignorance.

Posted by: isometruman1 | June 28, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Conservative and republican idiots using Byrd's death as a political opportunity just prove what we already know. That is, republicans not only lack intelligence and have the lowest IQ's in the world, they also lack morality and ethics. Most republicans are headed to hell in a hand basket and are completely unaware that their "republicanism" is merely a symptom of deep psycho-spiritual problems related to narcissism and a lack of empathy and compassion.

Posted by: vintel7 | June 28, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

"If you are a conservative and you are posting nasty comments about Senator Byrd, you should be ashamed. The Senator is barely cold and as usual, people are shredding the corpse."

I'm feeling liberal today so no problem.

Posted by: koperry | June 28, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: mosthind

Is Republican candidate Capito's Dad out of prison yet?

How juvenile. You sound like you need your face slapped.

Posted by: numbersch13 | June 28, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I see the low life GOP dawgs have crawled from under their rocks. God Bless Senator Byrd. He served us well, admitted his faults, fought for freedom and liberty.

Posted by: isometruman1 | June 28, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Lets just have all the candidates wear the white hood, and decide who is best!

Posted by: arby1 | June 28, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

If you are a conservative and you are posting nasty comments about Senator Byrd, you should be ashamed. The Senator is barely cold and as usual, people are shredding the corpse.

I am a lifelong conservative and despise the excesses of liberals and their reputation for Pork but this is a matter for the State of West Virginia to settle under their own laws, no one else need even comment, unless they reside within the borders of that state.

Given the greedy, venal makeup of the Congress we shouldn't expect anything more than another politician seeking to "feather his (or her) own nest with no particular concern for the electorate.

Posted by: OregonStorm | June 28, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Nine terms. NINE TERMS?!?!?!??!?! God. Byrd was a racist hypocrite, I guess if he got nine terms his constituents had no problem with that. It kills me how the Democrats, who owned the slaves, founded the KKK, wrote Jim Crow laws, etc, seem to always get away with calling connservatives (or any one that dares disagree with them) "racist." "Oh we've changed." B.S.
The PEOPLE should decide this, the seat should be added in the already scheduled election for November. but that won't happen the Democrats will be too frightened of losing it. They know how angry the voters are right now. So does Big Media. They do their best to margialize, ridicule, demonize, and discount the conservative (not necessarily "Repblican") uprising currently underway. The PEOPLE are sick of arrogant, hypocritical politicians that spend spend spend, tax tax tax, and worst of all are INCOMPETENT. It's an ANTI INCUMBENT anger even more than its an ANTI DEMOCRAT or ANTI LIBERAL anger,and they KNOW it. Big Media, and the Democrats are TERRIFIED, because they KNOW come November, things are about to CHANGE. They can't stop it, and they know it.

Posted by: brucewla | June 28, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Byrd stood up to the born again drunk fratboy, his corporate-backed crime family. Can any Republican toadies say the same?

Posted by: thebobbob | June 28, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

@lifelonglearnerdss: It's amusing that you would claim that liberals don't understand what they read while pointing at Gatecrasher.

Gatecrasher is obviously a radical right-winger like you and was/is following the radical party line. What's more amusing is that both of you obviously read only what you want to believe and remain clueless.

Posted by: Martel1 | June 28, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I note that the commentors proceeded immediately to calumny and name-calling.

A record, even for you lot.

Posted by: rmlwj1 | June 28, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

It's going to be hard to find a former KKK member to fill that seat

Posted by: arby1 | June 28, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Is Republican candidate Capito's Dad out of prison yet?

Posted by: mosthind | June 28, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gatecrasher, I know liberals usually don't understand what they read, so why don't you try it a 2nd time: "State law mandates that, if a Senate vacancy occurs more than 2 1/2 years before the term is up, a special election be held to fill the seat. There were exactly two years, six months and five days left in Byrd's term when he died." Read it slowly a few times, maybe that will help.

Posted by: lifelonglearnerdss | June 28, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I doubt there will be any type of election until 2012. I think Byrd was a great senator who represented and fought for his state of WV. The rest of the US may not have liked him much, but senators respected him and WV loved him as he fought for them every year he represented them.

Posted by: reason5 | June 28, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Byrd------the epitome of the hypocrisy of the democratic party!!!

Gay's are OK as long as they're liberal
Destroying the environment is OK as long as it's a liberal president doing it
Wars are OK unless as long as there's a liberal in the WH
Massive deficits are OK as long as liberals are spending the money
GITMO's OK as long as there's a liberal in the WH
FISA is OK as long as there's a liberal in the WH
Fascisn is OK as long as there's a liberal in the WH
Massive unemployment is OK as long as there's a liberal in the WH


Now with him and Kennedy the murderer dead how will they ever find another two faced slime of the same magnitude to replace them?

Posted by: Bcamp55 | June 28, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

There should be no confusion in filling Byrd's seat. The Democrats will find another KKK member then call the Republicans who oppose him racist.

Posted by: mike85 | June 28, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

@Gatecrasher...I thought conservatives were "big" on following the law. The law in West Virginia says that the governor appoints a replacement senator and if there are more than 2 1/2 years left in the unexpired term the replacement may finish the term. If you don't like the law, then take it up with your elected representatives in the legislature. Conservatives have been waiting for Byrd to die for more than 20 years...now they wish he could have held on another 4-5 days. Pathetic.

If Byrd's seat was long overdue to flip to the right-wingers, the voters would have replaced him in an election.

Posted by: kevinsingh1 | June 28, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

@Gatecrasher,
This article explains why the appointee with be likely Democratic and not Republican due to the state Constitution. As usual, conservatives see following the Constitution (federal and state) as immoral when it conflicts with their agenda.

Posted by: mandrake | June 28, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

This seat is overdue to come to the conservative side of the aisle with the Republicans. As a matter or law and principle, a special election must be held this November. Trust Democrats to use every trick in the book to subvert the democratic right of voters to choose their senator.

Posted by: Gatecrasher | June 28, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

This seat is overdue to come to the conservative side of the aisle with the Republicans. As a matter or law and principle, a special election must be held this November. Trust Democrats to use every trick in the book to subvert the democratic right of voters to choose their senator.

Posted by: Gatecrasher | June 28, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse


Robert Byrd the racist Ku Klux Klan leader is swimming laps in the Lake of Fire.

Posted by: screwjob16 | June 28, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

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