The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Remembering Senator Robert C. Byrd

June 28, 2010

Manchin to appoint successor; says he won’t select himself

BECKLEY — Gov. Joe Manchin has the duty of naming a successor to the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd since his term has more than 2 1/2 years remaining — a point Secretary of State Natalie Tennant reluctantly made clear within hours of his death Monday.

“I would have preferred to have allowed a little longer grieving and mourning period before the question of who would replace him and how it would be done were asked,” she said at a late-afternoon press briefing.

“Out of respect for Sen. Byrd, and his many accomplishments and wonderful service to this state, I wanted this office to mourn his loss and give West Virginians time to pay tribute. He is owed that much.”

Yet, the secretary of state emphasized, there is a duty to be performed that obligates her to spell out the process for replacing Byrd under West Virginia State Code.

Manchin insisted he had no intention of appointing himself to follow Byrd — repeating a stand he took a year ago when the senator’s health went into a nosedive.

Tennant cited Section 3-10-3 that says the governor has the responsibility for naming a successor until an election when there are more than two years and six months left in a term.

“But that election will not be the 2010 general election,” she told reporters.

“Part of this same section of code requires the candidate to have filed during the filing period. That filing period has already passed. There was a legal case in 1994 decided by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals that upheld that position of requiring candidates to file during the filing period.”

What this shakes out to is the next election cycle for Byrd’s office is 2012.

“That brings up an interesting situation,” Tennant said.

“Because Sen. Byrd’s seat would have been up for re-election in 2012, both the position for the unexpired term and full term will be on the ballot at the same time but are separate races. In fact, it will be two separate elections, with the unexpired race being a special election because it would otherwise not have been on the ballot.”

Whoever wins the unexpired term would finish the last five weeks or so until the new congressional term begins in January 2012. If Byrd’s term hadn’t expired in 2012, this unique situation wouldn’t have developed.

“Once again, this is a time of sadness and we should take pause to honor someone who has given so much to our great state of West Virginia,” Tennant added.

In Washington, the national secretary of state — Hillary Clinton — honored Byrd by recalling his remark in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack by Muslim hijackers.

As New York City struggled to get back on its feet, Clinton said, Byrd told her, “Think of me as the third senator from New York.”

“It is almost impossible to imagine the U.S. Senate without Robert Byrd,” she said.

“He was not just its longest serving member, he was its heart and soul. From my first day in the Senate, I sought out his guidance and he was always generous with his time and wisdom.”

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Remembering Senator Robert C. Byrd
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