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West Virginia Gov. Will Push for 2010 Special Election to Replace Byrd

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) told reporters this morning that he will push the state legislature to allow a 2010 special election to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

Manchin said he will ask state Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) for a legal opinion on the issue. If McGraw finds an earlier election is allowable, Manchin will ask the legislature to change the state’s election law to allow for the earlier election when it reconvenes later this month. He said he will not appoint a successor for the seat until McGraw gives a legal opinion on the issue.

“Two and a half years, for me, to appoint somebody to replace this giant of a person in Robert C. Byrd, is far too long,” Manchin said. “To assume that we can appoint someone longer than some people can get elected, go through the process and serve, doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think it makes sense to a lot of West Virginians.”

His announcement comes more than a week after West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) announced that state law in this case did not allow for a special election until 2012. If the election were to be held in 2012, voters would vote twice for senator on the same day — once for a temporary replacement to hold the seat for eight weeks, and once to elect someone for a full six-year term. Since then, Tennant and others from across the political spectrum — the West Virginia AFL-CIO, state Chamber of Commerce and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) among them — have urged Manchin to seek an earlier election.

While Manchin did not indicate who he will appoint to fill the seat prior to a special election, he suggested he had several “high-caliber” candidates in mind. He again insisted that he will not consider appointing himself.

“The most valued thing that you as a human being own is your vote,” Manchin said. “For me to believe, that I could assume that you would give that to me … I can’t do that.”

Manchin all but launched his own campaign for the seat.

“I would highly consider that, I truly would,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to put myself in a position to help my people in West Virginia.”

Updated at 12:20 p.m.

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