Early this morning West Virginia lost our beloved Senator Robert C. Byrd. He is truly an irreplaceable man of the coalfields, who touched the hearts of many during his years as an elected official. I do not think any words can ever capture the total essence of Senator Byrd.
And while no words seem to fill the void we West Virginians are feeling, there are several words for what is to become of his Senate seat. According to West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, there will not be a special election held this coming November. Instead, there will be an election in 2012 to fill this seat. Wait, 2012? Yes, it’s true. Tennant ruled today that her office’s interpretation of the WV Code meant that any candidate would have to go through a Primary Election.
So what are the latest rumors and whispers? First off, the WV GOP could contest the Tennant’s ruling and go to court to get a special election scheduled for November 2010. That’s the thinking of several key political strategists and consultants at least. Whether or not that happens will be determined in the days ahead, but here are some possibilities:
Manchin could resign and WV Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin would become Governor, then he would in turn appoint Manchin to fill Byrd’s seat. This, however, would not be a favorable option for Tennant because she has her sights set on the Governor’s seat in 2012. If Tomblin was acting Governor for two years then runs for the seat, Tennant does not stand nearly the chance she would if the special election was held in 2012. Tomblin has been positioning himself for Governor for awhile now, and I’ve heard from several sources the Governor will endorse him for this position. Speaker Rick Thompson also has his eye on becoming the next Governor of West Virginia, so Tomblin becoming acting Governor would decrease Thompson’s odds at getting elected as well.
Regardless of when the election for Byrd’s seat will be held, the big looming question is who Manchin will appoint as a placeholder? I feel this depends on when the special election is held. The Democrats know they cannot afford to lost this seat to the GOP, who would love for Rep. Capito to run for this office. Some names being repeated from both West Virginia Democrats and Republicans include; Carte Goodwin, Anne Barth, First Lady Gayle Manchin, Larry Puccio, Nick Casey, and Alan Mollohan (although I hear that’s definitely doubtful).
Manchin has made no mistake about saying that he will not appoint himself and he will not appoint someone for a few days out of respect for the Byrd family. His first priority is to honor our beloved Senator Robert Byrd.