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Manchin Enters Race for Byrd’s Seat

Updated: 11:22 a.m.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) announced Tuesday that he will run in this fall’s special election to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).

“I will represent the people of West Virginia every day,” Manchin said during Tuesday’s press conference at the state capitol in Charleston. “I want to make sure they see West Virginia people and hear West Virginia people through me.”

Manchin’s announcement, which came less than a day after he signed legislation teeing up the special election for November, was no surprise to West Virginia political followers who long expected the popular two-term governor to enter the race. The Democrat will likely enjoy a clear field in his party’s primary, scheduled for Aug. 28, and has a strong chance of winning the Nov. 2 general election.

All eyes now turn to Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who under the special election law is eligible to run both for another House term and the open Senate seat. Capito has served five terms in the Charleston-based 2nd district and is considered the strongest possible candidate against Manchin. She is expected to announce her plans within days. The filing deadline for the special election is Friday.

Immediately following Manchin’s announcement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee took aim the governor, whose term is not up until 2012, for playing politics.

“By breaking his promise to serve a full term as Governor even if a Senate vacancy existed, Joe Manchin has made clear that his own political self-interests are more important than keeping his word to the people of West Virginia,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said in a statement. “At a time when West Virginia’s unemployment stands at 8.9 percent and the national debt has skyrocketed past $13 trillion, voters will decide whether their state will be better off with another Democrat Senator who will loyally support the Obama agenda, or whether they want a Senator who will stand up for the checks-and-balances that they deserve.”

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) sought to portray Manchin as “a strong independent voice for West Virginia” and he praised his “fiscal conservatism” in a statement.

“No one will ever be able to fill Robert Byrd’s shoes as his irreplaceable leadership will be missed in Congress and in West Virginia,” Menendez said. “But Joe Manchin is someone who everyday makes West Virginians proud.”

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