June 28th, 2010
06:10 PM ET
4 years ago

Byrd succession controversy cleared up

The timing of Sen. Robert Byrd's death contributed to confusion about filling the remainder of his term.
The timing of Sen. Robert Byrd's death contributed to confusion about filling the remainder of his term.

Washington (CNN) - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant announced Monday afternoon that there will be no election this year to fill the remaining time in the term of the late Sen. Robert Byrd, ending hours of speculation. Tennant said the election will take place in 2012.

Byrd, 92, died early Monday. The nine term Democrat, who served for six years in the House prior to his move to the Senate, was the longest serving member ever in Congressional history.

But the timing of Sen. Robert Byrd's death contributed to confusion about filling the remainder of his term.

Under West Virginia law, Gov. Joe Manchin has the power to appoint a successor. Since Manchin, a popular two-term governor, is also a Democrat, it's expected he will name a fellow member of his party to succeed Byrd, thereby keeping Democrats' caucus in the Senate at 59 seats.

That was the easy part. Here's where it gets confusing.


West Virginia law also says that if the "unexpired term of any other office named in this section is for a period of less than two years and six months, the appointment to fill the vacancy is for the unexpired term." That means that if Byrd had died within two and a half years of the end of his term, his successor would serve out the remainder of the term.

Byrd was re-elected in 2006 and his seat was not up for re-election again until November 2012. His current term was scheduled to end on January 3, 2013, which is just a few days more than the than two and a half years dictated by West Virginia law.

The law does not clarify when a vacancy occurs. For example, is it when the death occurs, when the Senate informs the state of the vacancy, or when the governor of the state declares the seat vacant? The timing is crucial, since this upcoming Saturday, July 3, marks two and a half years until Byrd's term ends.

So the question of when the next election for Byrd's seat will take place – in 2012 when his term ends, or possibly as early as this November, was unresolved for much of Monday, until Tennant announced that the election will not be in 2010.

Late Monday afternoon Tennant clarified the situation. Citing the same section of code, she said that the law "requires the candidate to have filed during the filing period. That filing period has already passed."

The secretary of state continued, adding that "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."

Tennant also announced that two elections will be held in November 2012, one to fill the remaining two months of Byrd's term and one for the new six year term in the Senate that begins in January 2013.

Manchin told the Associated Press Monday that he will not name himself to the seat. But the governor, whose second term is up at the end of 2012, is thought to have interest in running for the Senate seat. Because of that, it's widely expected that Manchin will name a caretaker to replace Byrd.

–CNN's Mark Preston and Dugald McConnell contributed to this report

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: Robert Byrd • West Virginia
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Ridgeway

    A Democrat only until the next election then bye bye Byrdie.

    June 28, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. a little sad

    Let the screaming begin.

    June 28, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  3. Yossi Gestetner

    By bending the rules, Dems avoided now to lose another Senate seat. does anyone care/

    June 28, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. D.

    I thought democrats are for "vote by the people" and "register more voters" why they now take two and a half plus and make it two and a half minus, when they are in control!
    Shame!

    June 28, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  5. Albo58

    Just like in Massachuesetts, this Dimwit Governor will try to keep the choice away from the People by appointing some Dimwit party hack for this position for as long as possible!

    June 28, 2010 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. Cynthia - Arkansas

    Senator Bryd was always one of my favorites. He had passion and he could speak from experience. He was in office through so many different Presidents that is was wonderful to hear his stories.

    He will be greatly missed!

    June 28, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  7. phoenix86

    The democratic governor got his orders from Pelosi. No election this year so the governor can appoint another democrat. The voters would have put a republican in.

    Democracy is the biggest threat to the liberal agenda.

    June 28, 2010 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  8. Naqib

    Wonder what Emanuel will offer for that seat?

    At least that's how it works in Chi Town Baby !!

    At least according to Blago.... the man with the awesome hair!

    June 28, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  9. Tommy

    Suprise, suprise.

    How could the filing period have already passed? The seat hasn't yet been empty for 24 hours. I see a lawsuit over this.

    June 28, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  10. 8 years of the Bush Error = How many years of recession and unemployment?

    It would have been nice if the poor man had been dead for at least 24 hours BEFORE the cable bobble-heads and drama queens had started picking over his carcass and plotting the next political move.

    June 28, 2010 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  11. Keith in Austin

    Very Doubtful that a Democrat would win Byrd's vacated Senate seat if the election was held today!

    June 28, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    From what I've seen of Manchin, during the death of the miners, he's the right man for the Senate in 2012. I think it would be tough for anyone to go up against him. GO MANCHIN 2012!

    June 28, 2010 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  13. Jeffrey

    I believe that the Governor is going to run for Byrd's seat, particularly since there will be two elections, one to fill the remaining two months of his term, the second, to fill the seat vacated in the 2013 session. The governor can then fun for the full 6 year term, since his second term ends at the end of 2012, allowing him to walk directly into the Senate.

    June 28, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |