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Speculation Over Byrd’s Replacement to Last Several More Days

Updated: 12:35 p.m.

The speculation over how and when West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) will fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) looks like it will continue for several more days.

On Wednesday, Manchin said during a news conference at the West Virginia Capitol that he would hold off on making an appointment to temporarily fill the seat until state Attorney General Darrell McGraw reviews the state code and the legal process for conducting the special election that will eventually take place.

“I will not move forth on this appointment … until the attorney general’s opinion is rendered,” Manchin said.

McGraw indicated in statements last week his preference for holding the special election sooner than 2012 was laid out by Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.

Manchin also sought to clarify where he stands on the appointment and special election issue.

Manchin reiterated that he would not be appointing himself to the Senate despite some momentum in labor and West Virginia Democratic circles for him to do so.

“I can’t appoint myself,” he said. “For me to believe that I could assume that you would give [your vote] to me and even take it from you … I can’t do that.”

Manchin’s interest in the Senate position is an open secret, and he acknowledged Wednesday that he would certainly consider running whenever there is a special election.

He said he favors holding the special election earlier than 2012.

“To assume we can appoint someone for longer than some people can be elected and serve doesn’t make sense to me,” Manchin said. “Your vote belongs to you, and I believe you should have the right to exercise that vote as quickly as possible.”

While Byrd’s death occurred outside a window of two and a half years that would have automatically triggered a 2012 special election, Tennant said last week that another section of state election code required a candidate who is running to fill the seat in 2010 to have filed for the race during the state’s normal filing period, which has already passed. As such, Tennant said, the special election would be required to take place in 2012.

In a separate statement last week, Tennant said she favored holding a special election this November and asked Manchin and the state Legislature to amend the state election code in a special legislative session.

Manchin indicated Wednesday that he was open to pursuing that course of action. A special legislative session is already scheduled for July 19, but Manchin is charged with setting the session’s agenda and would have to ask state officials to take up the special election issue.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is considered the top potential Republican candidate for the Senate seat, released a statement Wednesday supporting amending the state election code.

“The power of our vote should never be limited or delayed in selecting our elected officials, and 28 months is too long for any person to serve in an elective office through appointment,” Capito said in her statement. “I encourage the West Virginia Legislature to amend our state’s election code and allow for a Special Election during the current election cycle on November 2, 2010.”

Troy Berman, executive director of the West Virginia Republican Party, said he was disappointed that Manchin decided to draw out the appointment and special election process.

“We’re still waiting to find out what our future holds,” Berman said. “It’s a little bit silly at this point with so many voices from so many parts of the state calling for a resolution to this question that we can’t all agree on a resolution.”

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