On his vacant Senate desk, two roses lay in crossed fashion this week in a silent tribute to the late Sen. Don Caruth.
Soon, the desk Caruth occupied will be taken over by a fellow Mercer County lawmaker, Delegate John Shott, the choice of Gov. Joe Manchin and the late senator’s widow, Laura. Shott was among three names Republican leaders turned in to Manchin for consideration.
Caruth died May 1 after a two-year battle with brain cancer.
As family members gathered in the red-carpeted chamber, the Senate paid tribute to the 59-year-old lawmaker who had launched his political career in the House of Delegates.
“I have mixed feelings because of the circumstances,” Shott said.
“Don was a close friend. It’s a great honor to be the person appointed to sit in his chair until the next election. I’m going to do my best to follow the model that he set.”
Besides Shott, the governor also considered Duane Miller of Sinks Grove and Jack Woodrum of Hinton, but based his decision on Caruth’s wife.
Woodrum said he felt honored to have been nominated and that Shott’s selection “does honor to Sen. Caruth’s legacy.”
“Sen. Caruth was not only a statesman but a gentleman whose beliefs and values made him a man of strong conviction and a friend that you could count on,” he said. “Don Caruth embodied the best of West Virginia.”
As is his custom to offer the post to a surviving spouse, Manchin asked Mrs. Caruth if she wanted to succeed her husband, but she turned down the offer in deference to her children and recommended Shott.
“She believes John and Don were very close philosophically,” Manchin said. “They approached their constituents and problems of their area on the same even keel.”
Given his status as a delegate, Manchin said Shott can get to work quickly for the people of the 10th District.
“Don had the utmost respect for John Shott both as a legislator and as an attorney,” Laura Caruth said in a letter to Manchin.
“I am sure Don would have approved of his seat in the Senate being designated to him.”
Now Manchin has another task — filling Shott’s seat in the 24th House District, and again, that means a list of three names from the Republican Executive Committee.
Shott isn’t automatically on the November general election ballot. The five-county District 10 must conduct a convention to choose the candidate the Republican Party wants to seek the office.
Shott said he understands the process is devised so that if he isn’t named as the Senate candidate he could be in position to retain his seat in the House.
Still undecided among Senate Republicans is the successor to Caruth as minority leader, a decision the party has delayed making until the new senator was appointed. Smart money says the task will fall on Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam.
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