The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 3, 2011

Senate accepts House primary date

CHARLESTON — House Minority Leader Tim Armstead is inching ever so close to joining the crowded field running for governor this year.

And the big question for now is, just when is the general election?

Delegates are holding out for a Sept. 13 election, but the Senate prefers an Oct. 4 one.

Acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, says his chamber’s version is in line with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s proclamation as ordered by the state Supreme Court and should prevail.

“I think the Senate version is supported by the proclamation,” he said after Wednesday’s floor session.

“I’ve not heard any valid explanation for why we would want to require or force the governor to potentially change that for approximately three weeks. It just seems unnecessary at this point. It’s against the spirit of cooperation, even with our executive branch.”

The Senate accepted the House primary date of May 14 in quick fashion Wednesday but refused to budge from the fall election date it prefers.

Admittedly, Armstead and others cannot say at this stage just which side of the rotunda is going to prevail.

But the veteran lawmaker did acknowledge Wednesday that he might join fellow Republicans in seeking the office.

“I am considering it,” the Kanawha County delegate said.

“I’m honored to even be considered by some of the people who have urged me to run. I’m going to give it some thought. I think a governor can be a tremendous asset to the people of West Virginia.”

Kessler appealed to the House to accept the Senate version of an Oct. 4 general, calling it “a fair resolution” between the differences in date.

“I hope in the spirit of comity between the two bodies, they will accept our compromise proposal sent out to them,” he said.

“Let’s put it behind us and work for the next 38 days.”

Tomblin was ordered by the high court to call for a special election in a ruling based on citizen lawsuits that challenged his right to satisfy the  final two years of former Gov. Joe Manchin’s second term.

Among high-profile Republicans in the running are former Secretary of State Betty Ireland and Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph.

“Having been here 13 years, seeing some of the challenges we face, working on those challenges, I think it would be a real opportunity there to make people’s lives better and improve our state,” the GOP leader said.

Armstead said he wants to make up his mind “fairly quickly,” after talking things over with his family.

The field could get a little congested for both parties.

So far, acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan; House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne; and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant are Democratic candidates.

“That’s good,” Armstead said of a swollen field.

“Particularly in a primary. I hope we have a really spirited campaign on the issues. West Virginians, when they select their next governor, will have a choice of different philosophies. I think that’s a good thing. A good primary on both sides would be productive.”

Armstead said the primary date — May 14, a Saturday — falls in the month when West Virginians traditionally pick candidates.

Armstead said the earlier primary would afford all candidates — Democratic, Republican and independents — more time to advance their interests in the fall campaign.

Whatever election dates are chosen, Armstead said the Legislature needs to move swiftly.

“It’s important that we move forward as quickly as possible,” he said.

“I think the important thing is we’re over the primary hurdle. We all agree that a primary is the right process.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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