West Virginia Legislature Could Clear The Way For A Temporary Appointee To Fill Byrd’s Senate Seat
Charleston, WV – West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin hopes a special session of the West Virginia legislature will clear the way to appoint a successor to fill the senatorial seat of the late Robert C. Bryd. The purpose of the session later this week is to clarify the senatorial succession law to clear the way for a special election to coincide with the general election scheduled for November 2nd. Manchin says he hopes the both the West Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate will be able to suspend constitutional rules and pass a reform bill by Friday.
Manchin says the bill has been drafted following the parameters set down in a legal opinion by West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw. McGraw says the Governor has authority under state law and the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution to call for a special election later this year. The 17th Amendment provides for the public election of US Senators.
McGraws’ opinion contradicts an earlier opinion from the office of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. She says her staff concludes that under the state’s senatorial succession law, a special election for Byrd’s seat can’t be held until 2012. But McGraw says that opinion relies too heavily on a 1994 state Supreme Court decision involving a circuit court vacancy, and gives insufficient weight to the dictates of the 17th Amendment.
Governor Manchin says he doesn’t believe a temporary appointee should be allowed to hold the vacated senate seat for 2 and one half years. He says the draft bill follows McGraws’ recommendation to hold a special election on November 2nd, with a primary election to select party candidates prior to that date. It would up to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, as the states’ Chief Elections Officer, to set the date for the special primary election. Once the bill passes, Manchin says he will name a temporary appointee to serve until the winner of the special election is certified.
Manchin has ruled out appointing himself as the temporary appointee. However, he says it’s highly likely that he will run for the unexpired term.
Thanks to the Charleston Gazette for the information in this report.