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West Virginia Legislature Clears Way for 2010 Special Senate Election

West Virginia legislators have reached an 11th-hour compromise to allow a special Senate election Nov. 2 to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).

Gov. Joe Manchin (D) signed a conference version of the bill that the state House of Delegates and state Senate passed this evening. The compromise bill only applies to the special Senate election, rather than becoming the rule for all future special elections, CQ Politics reports. It also includes a Republican amendment that renders the special election separate from the general election, thereby allowing candidates who have already filed to run for other offices — this was clearly meant to apply to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), the state’s most prominent Republican — to also run in the Senate race.

This likely means Capito will run for the Senate seat, as she had previously been reluctant to run if it meant she had to give up a race for re-election to her House seat. She will announce her intentions by the end of this week. Manchin, her likely opponent, has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. tomorrow, when he will almost certainly announce his candidacy.

An Aug. 28 special primary election will determine each party’s nominee. The filing period runs from 8:30 a.m. tomorrow to 5 p.m. Friday.

Both houses had previously passed other versions of this legislation, but were not able to reach an agreement on the Capito amendment or language that would make the legislation go into effect immediately instead of waiting the customary 90 days — key here because a 90-day wait would not have allowed the special election to proceed as scheduled. As late as this afternoon it looked as though the legislation was essentially dead, meaning the special election would have been put off until 2012. The legislation needed to be passed today to allow for the special election to proceed as scheduled. Manchin’s only other option would have been to unilaterally declare an election. Had he done that, West Virginia Watchdog reported, there would have been a lawsuit.

Negotiations dragged on into this evening, prompting Manchin’s staff to schedule and then postpone a press conference two separate times. Manchin finally spoke to reporters at 9 p.m.

“Sometimes we have some differences and sometimes we have some discussion, but the people have always benefited from the actions of the House and Senate,” Manchin told reporters.

Tonight’s news means that the clock has already begun to run down on Carte Goodwin’s (D) Senate term, which does not even begin until 2:15 p.m. tomorrow, when he will be sworn in. The winner of November’s special election will take over for Goodwin soon after and will serve until Byrd’s original term expires in January 2013.

Updated at 10:15 p.m.

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