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W.Va. Gov. Manchin Prefers Special Election to Pick Byrd Successor

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said Wednesday that he would not appoint himself to fill the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s Senate seat — but added that he wanted the state’s attorney general to reevaluate a secretary of state’s opinion that someone must be appointed to fill the seat until 2012.

Manchin, a Democrat, said he would “highly consider” running for the seat if a special election were held instead to fill the seat.

Byrd, who was buried Tuesday, died last week at the age of 92, as the longest-serving member of the Congress.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant ruled that state law dictates the governor should appoint someone to fill Byrd’s seat until a new election in 2012.

“My belief is that appointing someone for two years is too long,” Manchin said. “To assume we can appoint someone for longer than they can get elected and serve doesn’t make sense to me.”

Tennant said she supports a change in state law to allow for a special election to the seat.

“We asked lawmakers and their response was they didn’t want to be part of a death watch,” she said, according to the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. “They wanted to show respect for the senator while he was still living.”

Manchin said in a news conference Wednesday that he hoped there would be an election “sooner rather than later” and that it would be up to the state Legislature to make that happen, following a final opinion on the law by Attorney General Darrell McGraw.

“I will not move forward on this appointment or succession process until the attorney general opinion is rendered. That is most prudent thing to do right now.”

Filling Byrd’s seat appears to be a numeric imperative for Senate Democrats, who need to attract some Republican support to gain the 60 votes they need to cut off debate and pass the financial regulatory reform bill that is a hallmark of President Obama’s mid-term election year agenda.

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