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Gov. Joe Manchin Decision on Byrd West Virginia Senate Seat a Week Away, Keeping Day Job

5 years ago
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BOSTON -- Joe Manchin is having an interesting weekend. He's in Boston to become chairman of the bipartisan National Governors Association. But in about a week, if all goes well, West Virginia's Democratic governor will be announcing his plans to try for another job: U.S. senator.

In the wake of Sen. Robert Byrd's death, Manchin has called a special session of the Legislature in Charleston to clarify the state's convoluted succession laws. The session starts at noon Thursday and he predicted that lawmakers would wrap it up by next Sunday at the earliest. "This is me hoping," Manchin said in an interview with Politics Daily. "That's in a perfect situation, and that makes it very difficult." Ideally, he added, people will heed the advice of election-law experts and not politicize the process.

Until the law is rewritten and signed, there will be no interim senator named, and no declarations of candidacy for November.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin
Right now state law seems to suggest the governor should appoint a senator to serve for two and a-half years, almost to the end of Byrd's unexpired term. But the secretary of state and attorney general have differing interpretations. The law is likely to be revised in a way that allows the state to schedule a Senate primary in September and a special election in November. Then Manchin would name an interim senator to serve who would represent the state and also provide Democrats with another critical vote on Capitol Hill until voters choose a successor to Byrd.

A lot is hanging on how fast the West Virginia Legislature completes its work, including the fate of more than 1 million long-term unemployed who have run out of benefits. In Washington, Senate Democrats have failed several times to win an extension of the benefits, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he won't try again until Manchin names someone -- a Democrat -- to Byrd's seat.

Manchin intends to make his own political plans known at that point and said he is 'highly likely" to run for the open Senate seat. He also said he would continue to serve as governor while running for the Senate, and would "absolutely" continue as chairman of the governors association. He assumes the chairman post Sunday and said he'll highlight higher education -- in particular how to make sure more people finish their training and degree work.

A Senate candidacy "doesn't change anything" in terms of keeping his jobs as governor and governors association chairman, Manchin said, "because you're talking about a very short time frame here. You're talking probably a primary in September, and then a general in November, so within two months you do one, and in another two months you do the other." That is, if you're fortunate enough to win the primary, he added.

Manchin said it's long been widely known that his state's succession laws are unclear. He said Reid and others in Washington have been "very kind" in understanding why state leaders are not rushing right now and why they didn't clarify the laws in the past. Nobody wants a court challenge to either an appointed or elected senator, he said, and furthermore, "if ever there was a stickler for doing it by the rules and doing it right," it would be Byrd.

As for letting the uncertainties in the law fester, that also goes back to Byrd. "Out of respect and out of our love for him, while he was growing older and frail, we never went back and tried to change it because I thought it would be disrespectful and the Legislature thought it would have been disrespectful," Manchin said. "It would have been like a death watch. You're out there changing the succession in hope -- we just had too much love for him. That was just a very delicate situation."

Manchin said he has several people in mind that he has spoken with about potentially serving as interim senators. "I got a lot of people who would say yes," he said. "Saying yes is not the problem. The problem is basically we want to make sure that the law's clear, and then I make a selection, and then I'll have -- my own political intention will be third. Mine comes last."

Although the governor speaks affectionately of the National Governors Association as "the only truly nonpartisan political institution that's left in America" and calls Washington a "toxic environment," he left little doubt as to his intentions.

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So now all those million people who can't afford to pay their rent or put food on their tables have to wait until another group of politicians get off their butts and pass something that should have been on the books since statehood? And then maybe there will be an interim senator named? and then maybe the senate will get around to helping out all the jobless? Politicians have forgotten that their JOB is to represent the people who elected them not impose their own ideas.

July 11 2010 at 12:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to vamwolf's comment

They could help the unemployed right now if Obama would postpone that 2 billion dollar contract to build solar panels and apply the money to the unemployment benefits.

July 11 2010 at 11:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If he appoints a Senator now wouldn't it have to be someone who would step down when Manchin runs for the seat?

July 11 2010 at 12:26 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

I hope the guys that investigated Blago got the alert notice. This guy is trying to figure out how to circumvent the Constitution and write himself in as the next senator from West Virginia.

July 10 2010 at 10:31 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lhoward914's comment

I couldn't agree more. This is crazy and crooked. Too many people are on unemployment right now or waiting on an extensions to lay down and let this guy get away with it. People will go crazy and he'll appoint an interim.

July 12 2010 at 10:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

so swell...another democrat in washinton. hellooo, someone missing the trend up to the next elections?

July 10 2010 at 9:14 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to T's comment

much better than a republican who ran this country in the ground and want to countinue with the policys that ran america in the ground and deeply in debt

July 11 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

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