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W.Va. Gov. Joe Manchin to push for 2010 special election to replace Byrd

By Aaron Blake

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) Wednesday paved the way for a 2010 special election to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and said he would consider running for the seat this year.

Manchin said at a press conference that he will ask state Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) to issue an opinion on whether the law allows for a 2010 special election, rather than a 2012 one. Beyond that, he left open the possibility of changing the law through a special session of the state legislature.

Regardless of how the change is made, though, Manchin said he will be behind the effort. He said he doesn't want to appoint someone who will serve without the voters' consent for two- and-a-half years.

"I can't do it," Manchin said. "I believe in the power of the vote."

The change would add another competitive seat to a 2010 cycle already chock full of pickup opportunities for Republicans. The addition of another seat to the map would expand their chances of significantly diminishing the Democrats' majority or even retaking the Senate.

The Secretary of State's office ruled last week, after Byrd's death, that the law didn't allow for a special election this year, and said an appointee would serve until the 2012 general election. Since then, though, Republicans and some Democrats have pushed for a quicker vote on Byrd's replacement. Among those urging the earlier date include the Manchin-allied Chamber of Commerce and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who is seen as the most likely GOP candidate for the seat, joined the chorus Wednesday morning, urging the legislature to speed up the process and set a 2010 special election.

"The power of our vote should never be limited or delayed in selecting our elected officials, and 28 months is too long for any person to serve in an elective office through appointment," Capito said.

Capito's call could be seen as indication that she would run for the seat this year, and indeed, and earlier special election would appear to serve her political purposes. Manchin has previously said he intended to serve out his term, and if that remains the case, it would mean Capito wouldn't have to run against the extremely popular governor.

But Manchin said Wednesday that he would indeed entertain the idea of running this year, if the special election is moved up.

"I would highly consider that," he said.

Regardless, the change would allow Capito a head start in the race, given that she already has a $530,000 federal campaign bankroll. Manchin has no federal campaign account.

Having the race in 2010 would also force a tough decision on Manchin's part - whether to vacate the remaining two years on his term as governor and run for the seat, or allow another candidate, like Capito, to build up two years of incumbency before the regularly scheduled 2012 race for a full term. Manchin's situation is also complicated by the fact that he is set to assume the chairmanship of the National Governors Association this weekend.

Either way, Manchin would be formidable. Recent estimates peg his approval rating in the 70s, even as governors across the country are struggling under the weight of a bruised economy.

Aside from legislative action, the change could be made in the courts through a legal challenge. Though the law is somewhat quirky, state Supreme Court precedent appears to back up Tennant's conclusion that current law doesn't allow for a 2010 special.

Manchin said he expects the attorney general to make a determination on the special election law by Monday, and said he will proceed accordingly.

Regardless of when the race is, Manchin should still be tasked with appointing a temporary senator. He has said (and repeated Wednesday) that he would not appoint himself, though the AFL-CIO has urged him to do just that. More likely, it seems, he would appoint a placeholder who would not run for the seat.

Manchin said he already has a list of several potential appointees but will wait to make an appointment until more is known about the succession process.

Top offices in West Virginia are currently dominated by Democrats, but the state went 56 percent to 43 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race. Depending upon how the special election candidates shake out, the race would appear to start out as another toss-up.

Republicans need to take 10 Democratic seats to win back the majority. The additions of West Virginia and, potentially, Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wis.) seat would give them 13 pickup opportunities. The math remains very tough, though, especially given the GOP is defending five competitive open seats.

By Washington Post Editors  |  July 7, 2010; 11:48 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

FYI

All,

1. Ceflynline and Fairlinton: Thanks for your thoughtfulness and patience. I believe that the comments section will get better sooner rather than later so hopefully it will be rewarded.

2. 37th/Heatwave has been banned AGAIN. Not sure what else I can do other than keep banning him. And he will continue to return under other names.

3. ChrisFox/Noa: The comparison between you and 37th is based on your desire to return repeatedly under other names despite being banned. I continue to be baffled as to why you spend so much time getting back to a blog you disdain so much but that's another conversation.

4. To everyone else: Commenting on blogs remains very much a work in progress. The Post's goal is to allow as free a discussion as possible without permitting personal attacks and other online savagery. It seems a pretty easy goal to meet. Treat people online like you would offline.

Chris

Posted by: Chris_Cillizza | June 29, 2010 9:18 PM

Posted by: mariewilson11 | July 8, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I am surprised that Manchin wants a special election in this Republican year. I think it's great for Capito if it were to happen, as she would cruise through as the GOP nominee against the D in the GE. However, Manchin would also cruise through if he were to run. Turning down the DGA chairmanship is a tough thing to do for Manchin. I would think Manchin would want this race pushed back to 2012 and be able to appoint a place holder until then.

CC, you say Republicans have 5 competitive seats. Which ones? I have 3 in the competitive range for Republicans: Missouri, Florida & Ohio. Florida is the toughest save, although Democrats have virtually no chance to win it. It's between R Rubio & No party affiliation Crist. Crist has been a life long Republican, and may still vote for McConnell as Majority leader & caucus with Republicans. Rubio definately would. Republicans want Rubio badly in that race, however. Missouri is a toss up, as Dems. recruited a great candidate and R's have a very good candidate in Roy Blunt. In Ohio, Portman's huge financial edge and organizational structure is taking hold and it looks like he'd pulling away a little against Fisher. I think Portman will keep Ohio for Republicans, but it's still competitive.

Republicans have 13 by my count that can be pick-ups: Delaware, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Washington, Arkansas, Colorodo, Nevada & California. Those are all very competitive. Connecticut has a potential to be competitive because of Linda McMahon and her millions of dollars, but Blumenthal is in control of this race despite his gaffe about military service. He's well ahead. If the race takes place this year, West Virginia will be #13. WV is definatley a pick up chance with Capito. This is an interesting political situation here. My guess is, however, no election will take place until 2012. Anyone else have a guess?

Posted by: reason5 | July 8, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

BTW Brigade, with Byrd dead now all that remains are the bigots of the GOP and Tea Klan.

Posted by: rcc_2000 | July 7, 2010 6:22 PM
----
I'm not a Teabagger, have no connection to the Klan, and have never been accused of racism---except on this blog. Tell me, what did Biden mean when he described Obama as "clean and articulate" upon his decision to run for President? What did Harry Reid say about Dems supporting a black man for President as long as doesn't speak with a "negro dialect?"

Posted by: Brigade | July 7, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

BTW Brigade, with Byrd dead now all that remains are the bigots of the GOP and Tea Klan.

Posted by: rcc_2000 | July 7, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

rcc__2000 wrote,
"The Tea Klan loves to somehow claim Byrd as one of their own. But he did repudiate it. He did change over time as the country did.

Byrd was 47 in 1964. I guess you are unaware of how this country has changed since 1964 ("whites only" was legal at that time).
---

Hey, these southern Democrats all got religion when they were unable, despite their best efforts, to kill the Civil Rights Act. Helms and Thurmond became Republicans, but contrary to liberal folklore, most of them didn't. Byrd was cut from the same cloth as Gore Sr., Wallace, Maddox, Fulbright, Connor and all the others. They "repudiated" their pasts BECAUSE THE COUNTRY CHANGED (they needed black votes to stay in power), not because THEY changed. Can you say political opportunism? Don't be so gullible.
Posted by: Brigade

------

Just because you are unable to stop being a bigot does not mean others cannot. Some of the Dems you mentioned were and remained bigots (so you would be like them). But Byrd probably was sincere. Anyways, that is irrelevant. The point is that bigots like you need to reach back a half century to find Dem bigots to somehow justify your bigotry in 2010. Tea Klan are all the same. Ignorant bigots.

Posted by: rcc_2000 | July 7, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

rcc__2000 wrote,
"The Tea Klan loves to somehow claim Byrd as one of their own. But he did repudiate it. He did change over time as the country did.

Byrd was 47 in 1964. I guess you are unaware of how this country has changed since 1964 ("whites only" was legal at that time).
---

Hey, these southern Democrats all got religion when they were unable, despite their best efforts, to kill the Civil Rights Act. Helms and Thurmond became Republicans, but contrary to liberal folklore, most of them didn't. Byrd was cut from the same cloth as Gore Sr., Wallace, Maddox, Fulbright, Connor and all the others. They "repudiated" their pasts BECAUSE THE COUNTRY CHANGED (they needed black votes to stay in power), not because THEY changed. Can you say political opportunism? Don't be so gullible.

Posted by: Brigade | July 7, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Joe Manchin is showing a cowardly lack of leadership. Don't like the law? Change it to suit your needs.

Posted by: pjohn2 | July 7, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

To follow the legacy of the liberal icon Byrd a tea party member should be elected.
Since all tea party members are also KKK members this is a logical progression to
ensure Byrd’s KKK legacy is remembered and extended. I know some liberals say the KKK years were just a youthful indiscretion at the tender age of 47 but it’s the liberal legacy to stand at the school house door. .
Posted by: leapin

-------

The Tea Klan loves to somehow claim Byrd as one of their own. But he did repudiate it. He did change over time as the country did.

Byrd was 47 in 1964. I guess you are unaware of how this country has changed since 1964 ("whites only" was legal at that time).

The sad thing is that while Byrd changed and grew with the times, you (leapin) remain a KKK lovin idiot.

Posted by: rcc_2000 | July 7, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Manchin will come out looking great in this whole ordeal, and I think he will win the election if it is held this november or in two years. More importantly I think he knows that.

Posted by: AndyR3 | July 7, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

please, he never posts anything but drool.

Posted by: drindl | July 7, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Byrd's legacy was that he was
a smart enough man to know he was wrong,
a humble enough man to admit it
and
a good enough man to change himself.

That's a proud legacy.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 7, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

leapin even by your low standards, that post was nonsensical. I'm sure you thought it was quite clever, but you'd be sadly mistaken.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | July 7, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

To follow the legacy of the liberal icon Byrd a tea party member should be elected.
Since all tea party members are also KKK members this is a logical progression to
ensure Byrd’s KKK legacy is remembered and extended. I know some liberals say the KKK years were just a youthful indiscretion at the tender age of 47 but it’s the liberal legacy to stand at the school house door. .

Posted by: leapin | July 7, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

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