Gov. Manchin To Name W.Va. Senator Today; A.P. Says It's Carte Goodwin

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) will name a successor to the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) at 2 p.m. ET today at the state Capitol in Charleston, and the Associated Press is reporting that it will be Carte Goodwin, the governor's former general counsel who is 36 years old.

The A.P. says Goodwin worked on Manchin's 2004 campaign for governor "before coming his chief lawyer. He served in that post until shortly after Manchin began his second term in 2009, leaving for his family's law firm."  Goodwin's wife, Rochelle, is state director for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D).

Other names on the short list had been former state Democratic Party chair Nick Casey and ex-Gov. Gaston Caperton.

Assuming it's Goodwin, but anyone who gets picked will likely hold the office only until November.  A special session of the state Legislature is expected to call for a special election to fill Byrd's seat this year, rather than wait until 2012, when his term was up.  Manchin has said it is highly likely he will run for the seat; his term as gov. also expires in 2012.

Manchin's decision to name someone close to him as a caretaker senator is precisely what happened in recent times in Delaware and Florida.  In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist — then a Republican who has since left the party — named his former chief of staff George LeMieux to temporarily fill the Senate seat vacated by GOP incumbent Mel Martinez while Crist was running for the seat himself.  And in Delaware, Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide to Joe Biden, was named to temporarily hold Biden's seat after he was elected vice president.  The presumption was that he would keep the seat warm for Biden's son, state Attorney General Beau Biden, who was expected to run for it in this year's special election.  But young Biden decided not to run.

Back to West Virginia.  On the Republican side, the name most often bandied about as a potential candidate is Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore.  But Manchin is extemely popular in the state, which hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1956, and she may want to follow her father's footsteps and instead run to succeed Manchin in two years.  Businessman John Raese, who got clobbered by Byrd in 2006 — and who lost a squeaker to Rockefeller in the 1984 Senate race — is considering another run.

Byrd's death on June 28 did more than simply reduce the Democratic majority in the Senate; it set back President Obama's agenda.  For example, the loss of the seat meant they fell one vote short from ending a GOP filibuster on extending unemployment benefits.  For Democrats on Capitol Hill, Manchin's announcement today — no matter who it is — cannot come soon enough.

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