West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) on Friday appointed Carte Goodwin, his former general counsel, to temporarily fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).
Manchin, in an afternoon press conference at the state Capitol, noted that Goodwin will become the youngest Senator serving in the chamber when he is sworn in. At 36 years old, Goodwin is five years younger than Byrd was when he took office following his first Senate win in 1958.
“It’s only fitting that he is replacing the most beloved, the most historic figure that the Senate has ever known and happened to be the oldest when the good Lord took him. … What a tremendous opportunity that we have. We pass this torch to another generation,” Manchin said.
The governor also said Friday that the Senate seat will always be Byrd’s regardless of who holds it, a sentiment that Goodwin acknowledged in his remarks.
“No one could can even begin to replace [Byrd], nor can anyone hope to fill his shoes. But what I can do and what I will do will try my best to simulate his work ethic and his commitment to the law, the Constitution and this great state,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin served on the governor’s staff from 2005 to 2009 and currently serves as a civil litigation lawyer based in Charleston. He has also worked on the governor’s advisory committee on judicial nominations.
Goodwin will serve until a special election takes place, likely in November, to fill the remainder of Byrd’s term. Manchin has expressed his interest in running for the seat and is considered the prohibitive early frontrunner in that race.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who was in Charleston for the announcement, said in an interview Thursday that he looked forward to helping the new Senator get acclimated and ensured that he could be productive during his time in office. Rockefeller did not yet know whom Manchin had chosen to appoint at the time of the interview, but on Friday, he hailed Goodwin’s appointment.
“The new person, I will take under my wing,” Rockefeller said on Thursday. “I’ll work with him, we’ve go to help him settle in. He’ll be the last in line for everything, and I want him to be effective, and he knows — or she, that he’s only going to be there for four months.”
In a statement Friday, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the lone Republican in the state’s Congressional delegation, criticized Manchin for appointing a close political ally to the Senate seat.
“It is apparent that many elected officials, and particularly the person ultimately charged with calling a Special Election, have been more focused on political maneuvers to further their own political ambitions before fulfilling the obligations of their office on behalf of the people they were elected to serve,” Capito said. “Based on the person chosen from the rumored field of candidates to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy on an interim basis, it is once again evident that political ambition was the key factor in the selection.
Capito said Manchin followed the same path as Florida Gov. Charlie Crist did last August when he appointed his former staffer, now-Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.), “for the sole purpose of protecting his own desire to run for the U.S. Senate seat.”
David M. Drucker and Bob Benenson contributed to this report.