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West Virginia pols weigh moving Byrd special election to November

The special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.Va.) seat might not have to wait until 2012 after all.

Just two days after the senator died and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) declared an election for his seat would have to wait two years, an effort to move the special election to 2010 appears to be materializing -- though it remains to be seen whether it will develop into a serious challenge to her ruling.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones (R) said Wednesday morning that he believes the state legislature will take up legislation that would move the special election to this year.

According to local reports, Jones said he has reason to believe Gov. Joe Manchin (D) will add the issue to the slate for a special session next month. (The special session, which is focused on education, is set to start on July 19.)

"Senator Byrd died; that's something we can't change," Jones said, according to West Virginia Metro News. "We need to have a successor."

A spokesman for Manchin didn't immediately offer a comment to The Fix, but state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio, a former Manchin chief of staff, said lawmakers are looking at all their options, including adding the issue to the special session and challenging the law in court.

While state Republicans have vocally come out for an earlier special election, state Democrats have not yet stated an official position on moving the election up. But Puccio said the party would like to send the issue to voters, if possible.

"I have not heard, at this time, that there is one direction that is locked in," Puccio said. "The Democratic Party in the state of West Virginia always believes giving our citizens an opportunity to vote is always the right thing to do."

At least one prominent Democrat -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper (D) -- has come out in favor of an earlier special election. And state Attorney General Darrell McGraw has said his office is still reviewing the law, even though Tennant already declared the special election would have to wait until 2012.

Influential talk radio host Hoppy Kercheval -- the best name in broadcasting(?) -- also cast his lot with those calling for a November 2010 special election in a column today. "When the law is ambiguous it is appropriate to default in favor of, or advocate on behalf of, enabling the voters to choose," he wrote.

Republicans said Democrats are catching on to public sentiment about the timing of the special election. "Public reaction to have somebody serve for more than 30 months was overwhelmingly negative, and lawmakers of both parties are responding," said Troy Berman, executive director of the state Republican Party.

Tennant on Monday declared that state law wouldn't provide for a special election until 2012. While Byrd's death occurred early enough for a 2010 special election to be held, Tennant explained that the law stipulates that candidates must have time to file for the regular primary (which has already passed).

The timing of the special election has particular significance for Manchin who is widely considered the heir apparent to the seat. Manchin was just re-elected in 2008 and the current political environment nationally isn't particularly friendly for Democrats.

It's not completely clear that 2012 will be any better though. The presidential election could drag down any Democrats running statewide, given that President Obama got only 43 percent of the vote in the state in 2008. And, Manchin is both well known and extremely popular in the state -- an edge that could be decisive in a shortened election season but would likely be less helpful in a longer race.

On the Republican side, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is generally seen as the likely GOP candidate for the seat. She already has more than $500,000 in her federal campaign account.

Manchin has put off appointing Byrd's successor for at least a week, which should provide him time to assess his options.

The ball is in his court, though. If the legislature is to consider changing the law, it's up to Manchin to put any debate about election laws (and timing) on the agenda for the special session.

--Aaron Blake

By The Fix  |  June 30, 2010; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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@bumblingberry: what I find funny is that regardless of how liberal the land maybe, you've obviously not chosen to actually read the law. For you and all of those who think it is unclear-take another look. And then compare it to the 1994 WV Supreme Court decision in Robb v. Caperton. Both the law AND that decision are explicitly clear. Because the filing period has passed, the special election must be held in 2012. It may be stupid, but it's not unclear.
Furthermore, the law used to have a process outlined for this specific situation. But in 1990, the legislature explicitly and specifically removed that section of the Code. Now WV is left with this mess.
But to claim the law is unclear conveys either ignorance or manipulation on the part of the person making the claim. The legislature has had 20 years and a Supreme Court case specifically clarifying the law and still didn't act. It's more likely they knew full well but didn't want to look like they were trying to push Byrd out of office and refused to talk about changing the law to make it actually make sense for the voters.

Posted by: brewhaha1 | July 1, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

If the governor is really a Democrat he should just tell the republicans to go pound sand. There is no sense in being nice to right wing nut jobs


Wait a minute! And here I thought it was the Republicans who wanted to disenfranchise people and stop the people from having their voices heard!

Posted by: LMW6 | July 1, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

The Democrat party in West Virginia is a crooked as any from Chicago. For Joe Manchin to appoint someone to represent West Virginia for over 2 1/2 years is saying he doesn't believe the people of West Virginia should have any voice in who represents them in the U.S. Senate. Manchin is a political hack just like the WV senate president, whose mother is paid thousands every year as a greyhound breeder do to a law passed just for her. The people of West Virginia should get behind the TEA Party movement and get rid of all the old Democrat machine that has kept this state in poverty for many decades. Joe Manchin has allowed the roads in West Virginia to deteriorate to the worst shape they have been in since the early 1970's, yet WV's gas tax is 5%!! West Virginian's demand a vote for Senator Byrd's replacement. Any attempt to not allow them to vote on this is an overt suppression of their right to choose their own senator.

Posted by: good_angel | July 1, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

How about 2011?

Posted by: ChasActuary | July 1, 2010 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Voters need to decide who occupies the seat. The election should be moved up to November 2010. The governor shouldn't appoint a placeholder for two years, not in these difficult times.

Posted by: pjsilva | June 30, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

I truly believe that in death, it is an appropriate time to talk about how good a person was and how bad they were.

It is always good to wish that they went to Heaven.

However, being honest about a person's good points and bad points is important - it shows family that they should be careful to live their lives properly - that we have one life and we should live it as properly as possible.

In a sense, we diminish the praise we give people by purposely overlooking their past sins -

What I mean is this: If we just say good things, we don't know how genuine those things are - however if we state the good, while also mentioning the bad, we all know the good is genuine.

The bad should be stated.

Obviously, Byrd sought forgiveness for his bad. And that should be stated.

Also, Byrd was a product of his time and place - the world of the 1940s and 1950s was much different - as was America of the 1700s and 1800s was a different place from today.

Byrd found himself in the 1960s representing a place - in a sense he was a product of that time and place.

There were others in the 1960s who found themselves in other places - some getting the call of the draft - feeling the pull to fight for their country - some not being drafted and being in a completely different place.

Byrd found himself in that time and place - which does not excuse but it certainly merits a discussion.

In any event - no person ever represented his State like Byrd represented his state - and in that category, Byrd was certainly the greatest US Senator.


Posted by: LaserLight | June 30, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

If the governor is really a Democrat he should just tell the republicans to go pound sand. There is no sense in being nice to right wing nut jobs

Posted by: cbeckley7731 | June 30, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

how very quickly the jacquels fight over the byrd carcass? has the senator even been put in the ground before the disrespect began? i didn't much care for senator byrd's politics, but this feeding off the corpse is a sad sideshow even for todays politics? rcm.

Posted by: rcbootsmiller | June 30, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Manchin would be wise to get in front of this issue - and call for the special election to be held this year. Mandhin would probably be wise to get in the race this year as well.

Voters are not going to be happy with an appointed Senator having a term of 2 years - and the special election being only 5 weeks.

In addition, the law seems to contradict itself - not a good situation for Manchin.

The second issue for Manchin is to appoint a caretaker for two years or to run himself -

Manchin should run himself right now - what is known is better than the unknown - Manchin knows where he stands this year, and in two years his situation is much more unknown.

If Manchin gets out in front - comes in firmly behind the voters making the decision - and runs himself this year - then Manchin looks great.

Otherwise, Manchin is risking the appearance that he is manipulating the situation. The law is unclear - but Manchin can not be seen as manipulating that lack of clarity for his own benefit.

The voters should make the decision - and they should make it this year - that is the right answer - no matter what.


Posted by: LaserLight | June 30, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

"Stunning development: Possiblity of two Illinois Senate elections on Nov. 2"

And here I thought pushing the WV special to 2012 was ridiculous.

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 30, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Stunning development: Possiblity of two Illinois Senate elections on Nov. 2

Posted by: impei | June 30, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

The idea that this election could be postponed until 2012 is rediculous. The senate voted that night and passed a bill 99, 1 not voting (Senator Byrds slot was vacant) to 0. If they did no business until July 4th then they may have been able to stall. But the dems need to rush everything through before they get slaughtered in Nov. Things don't look good for Mr. Obama right now with the CBO report, all the other governments of the G-20 cutting spending and putting Obama down, with global warming turning to global cooling before our eyes, with Blago accusations of Mr. Obama being involved with the senate appointment in Ill., with the truth comming out about racism and politics contributing to the dropping of charges against the Black Panthers at the polling areas, with ACORN and the New ACORN corruption with our tax dollars, with the Healthcare facts comming out and other expenditure costing America 90% of our GDP by 2020, with Mr. Obama having to turn to using the same tactics and idea that Mr. Bush used and with his poll numbers dropping to 28%. Lets see, Iraq was the wrong war, but Mr. Bush won that and the citizens of Iraq are free although there is still some killing going on. Afghanistan is Obama's war and will last for another 5 years at least. So much for closing Gitmo, pulling troops out in July 2011 and all the other failed promises that He has made. WOW that was a long rambling post. But he has plenty more problems.

Posted by: pafaery | June 30, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Under oath, a union official at Blago’s trial has now testified that Obama made his preferences clear:

In testimony at Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama — speaking a day before his Nov. 8, 2008 triumph in the presidential election — said that [Valerie] Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House. Balanoff, a close Obama ally and top official with the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, said Blagojevich countered by suggesting Obama appoint him Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Robert Gibbs brushed off inquiries on the testimony – hasn’t been keeping up with the trial, he says. This is ludicrous. Either the transition team and the president-elect weren’t straight with the American public or Balanoff lied under oath. And Obama is a potential witness, perhaps the only one who can help the jury decide which it is. This is not a small matter

The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that the president wants to take hold. The president is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isn’t going to improve things. It’s time to come clean — on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals.

Posted by: bumblingberry | June 30, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it funny that in liberal land, the law can be read anyway you want it to be?

Posted by: bumblingberry | June 30, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

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