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W.Va. Legislature Failed To Take Action But 2010 Senate Race Still Likely

Jul 19, 2010

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A special election this year to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) is "now in doubt," reports the Charleston Gazette's Lawrence Messina, because a special session of the state Legislature recessed on Sunday without acting on it.

But just because the Legislature failed to act doesn't mean there won't be a special election this year.

The plan, to hold an Aug. 28 primary, followed by a Nov. 2 general election, was strongly supported by Gov. Joe Manchin (D), who planned (and plans) to run for the seat.  The failure of the Legislature to act by Sunday led some state officials to question whether a 2010 election was doable.

But not everyone.  The Charleston Daily Mail's Ry Rivard reports that the impasse may force Manchin "to call a special election on his own":

If he does so, his authority may be tested in court. Current election law is ambiguous, although the state attorney general has given Manchin the go-ahead to call the election to fill Robert Byrd's unexpired term. ...

Jim Pitrolo, the governor's legislative director, blamed the "total breakdown" on Republicans. He said the main sticking point was language in the bill that gave leeway to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to manage the election. Republicans said the leeway was, in fact, granting Tennant unconstitutional authority. ...

Republicans have accused the governor of micromanaging the process for his own gain.

Republicans tried to change the language of the bill to allow a candidate to run for office in addition to seeking the Senate seat, which would let Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) to do both.  Democrats didn't like that idea.

Manchin communications director Sara Payne issued this statement Sunday night:

This bill is in the Legislature's hands. The governor is allowing this process to happen. If we do not have a bill, then the governor — to protect the voice of the people through an election process — will be forced to make a decision tomorrow [Monday].

On Friday, Manchin appointed his former legal counsel, Carte Goodwin, to fill Byrd's seat, a tenure that will end with the November election.

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