The uncertainty over when the next Senate election in West Virginia will take place has been resolved.
The election, of course, is to succeed Robert Byrd (D), who died early this morning. Gov. Joe Manchin (D) has the power to name a successor. But there was some confusion in state election law over whether it meant there would be a special election this year, or whether Manchin's choice would serve until 2012, when Byrd's term was up.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) settled things today by deciding the election will take place in 2012, not this year. For the election to have been held this year, candidates would have had to file during the filing period, and "that filing period has already passed":
That means the election for the unexpired term would be the next election cycle which would take place in 2012. Candidates will be nominated in the primary and elected in the general of 2012.
In fact, there will be two Senate races on the ballot in November 2012 for the same office: the one commencing in January 2013, and one that would fill the remaining five weeks or so of Byrd's term. The same candidates may run in both elections.
Manchin, who is term limited in 2012 and clearly wants the Senate seat, has said he will not appoint himself. His choice to fill the seat is expected to be announced in the next week or so. It is expected that person will keep the seat warm for Manchin.
My post earlier today discusses potential candidates.
Republicans last won a West Virginia Senate race in 1956. Sen. Matthew Neely (D) died in office, and former Sen. Chapman Revercomb (R) — riding President Eisenhower's coattails — easily defeated Gov. William Marland (D) in the special election. Two years later, Revercomb got clobbered by Byrd.
Assuming the popular Manchin is the Democratic candidate in 2012, the GOP record of futility could continue. But 2012 is a long way away. And it is a presidential year. In 2008, Barack Obama received just 43 percent in West Virginia.