Momentum builds toward November 2010 W.Va. special election

July 8, 2010

By Shane D’Aprile, The Hill

Democrats and Republicans in West Virginia say political momentum is moving toward a November 2010 special election to fill the late-Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat but there are several questions about how to make that happen.

“It’s a moving target at this point,” said one Democrat with knowledge of the process. “I don’t think a lot of people have really thought two or three moves down the road yet.”

The election is set for November 2012 and several strategists believe the state legislature would have to change the law in order to move it up to November 2010.

Gov. Joe Manchin (D) has been mum about whether he will direct the state legislature to revisit the succession process during its special session, which is scheduled to begin July 19, but insiders say the political momentum for a change has reached critical mass.

Manchin did not publicly address the issue Tuesday, the same day funeral services for Byrd were held in Arlington, Va.

The governor’s office said Tuesday that Manchin will make an announcement on succession process Wednesday at 11 a.m. The statement said the governor will not announce his appointment to the seat on Wednesday.

Derek Scarbro, executive director of the West Virginia Democratic Party, said the state party doesn’t have an official position on whether there should be a special election this November, but he said there is strong support for the idea from both Democrats and Republicans in the state.

“A lot of other groups have come out in favor of it now, too,” Scarbro said.

Over the past two days, interests on both sides of the aisle have called publicly for Manchin to address the process. On Monday, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce called the state’s election code “muddled” on the issue of Senate succession and asked the governor to call a special election for this November.

The state Republican Party also came out in favor of a November 2010 special election and is reviewing its legal options should it decide to launch a court challenge.

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