While West Virginians continue to honor the life and legacy of Senator Robert Byrd, the process to select a new U.S. Senator has already begun among our state’s elected officials. The U.S. Constitution places the power of filling a vacancy correctly with the voters while allowing for state legislatures to permit temporary appoints by the Governor.
I am confident that a West Virginian with a distinguished record of public service can be appointed in an open and transparent process to serve on an interim basis until a Special Election can be held. The West Virginia Secretary of State announced that under current election law the Special Election will not take place until the 2012 election cycle. While that may be the correct interpretation of the current law, I do not believe it is the right course for West Virginia.
The power of our vote should never be limited or delayed in selecting our elected officials, and 28 months is too long for any person to serve in an elective office through appointment. I encourage the West Virginia Legislature to amend our state’s election code and allow for a Special Election during the current election cycle on November 2, 2010. For the first time in 26 years, voters may go to the polls this November to select a new U.S. Senator. As this process will create intense speculation on potential candidates, it will ultimately allow for a healthy discussion of the pressing problems facing our state and country. Throughout my almost 14 years in public office, I am constantly reminded that elected officials are caretakers of that office on behalf of the people.
If there is a special election, many Republicans would like to see Capito run.
It appears that this is more than just GOP grousing:
Secretary of State Natalie Tenant has already called on state lawmakers to revise the law to allow for a special election.
“For me, there is a distinct line between how I personally feel and what I can legally do,” Tennant said on her website late last week. “I personally believe that the voters of the state should be allowed to elect a successor to Senator Byrd sooner than November of 2012.”
But as the law is currently written, Tennant has said Gov. Joe Manchin must appoint a successor to serve out the remainder of Byrd’s unexpired term.
By the way, isn’t it refreshing to hear a public official acknowledge that what she wants and what the law requires are two separate concepts?