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West Virginia May Move Up Date For Special Election For Byrd Seat

Chris Cilizza reports that West Virginia politicians are discussing changing state law to allow a special election to fill Robert Byrd’s seat this year:

The special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) seat might not have to wait until 2012 after all.

Just two days after the senator died and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) declared an election for his seat would have to wait two years, an effort to move the special election to 2010 appears to be materializing — though it remains to be seen whether it will develop into a serious challenge to her ruling.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones (R) said Wednesday morning that he believes the state legislature will take up legislation that would move the special election to this year.

According to local reports, Jones said he has reason to believe Gov. Joe Manchin (D) will add the issue to the slate for a special session next month. (The special session, which is focused on education, is set to start on July 19.)

“Senator Byrd died; that’s something we can’t change,” Jones said, according to West Virginia Metro News. “We need to have a successor.”

A spokesman for Manchin didn’t immediately offer a comment to The Fix, but state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio, a former Manchin chief of staff, said lawmakers are looking at all their options, including adding the issue to the special session and challenging the law in court.

The ball is in Manchin’s court since he sets the agenda for the special session, and the timing of a special election isn’t entirely clear:

The timing of the special election has particular significance for Manchin who is widely considered the heir apparent to the seat. Manchin was just re-elected in 2008 and the current political environment nationally isn’t particularly friendly for Democrats.

It’s not completely clear that 2012 will be any better though. The presidential election could drag down any Democrats running statewide, given that President Obama got only 43 percent of the vote in the state in 2008. And, Manchin is both well known and extremely popular in the state — an edge that could be decisive in a shortened election season but would likely be less helpful in a longer race.

Stay turned on this one, obviously.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook