(CNN) – West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin says he'll push to hold a special election this November to fill the remaining two years of the term of late Sen. Robert Byrd.
Manchin, a popular two-term Democratic governor, also told reporters that he "would highly consider" seeking the seat himself - a statement that is not surprising given Manchin was already thought to be interested in running for the Senate in 2012, when the election is currently scheduled.
Manchin made his announcement during a news conference Wednesday with reporters at the state capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, one day after Byrd was buried. The 92 year old Democratic lawmaker, who died last week, was the longest serving senator in U.S. history.
Last week West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said that state law dictated that no special election could be held until 2012. Since then, there have been calls by conservative and business groups to hold the special election this year. On Friday, Tennant also urged for the law to be changed and the election to be moved up.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia Wednesday morning also joined those calls, saying that the state legislature should change the state law. State lawmakers are scheduled to meet again later this month. If there is a special election, Capito could be the GOP's top contender for the seat.
Manchin told reporters that he's asking state Attorney General Darrell McGraw, a Democrat, to rule on whether an election can be held as early as this November. Manchin says he hopes the attorney general will have a decision by next week. He also did not dismiss moving up the election through a move by the state legislature.
West Virginia law dictates that the governor has the power to name an immediate replacement for Byrd. Manchin says he doesn't want to appoint someone who would serve for two and a half years without the people's consent.
"I believe in the power of the vote," Manchin told reporters.
If the contest is held this November, it would add another possible Senate pick up potential for the Republicans and would help their odds at possibly retaking control of the chamber. The GOP needs to re-take 10 Senate seats to regain the majority.
The state's largest union, the West Virginia chapter of the AFL-CIO, has urged Manchin to name himself to the seat, but the governor has said he will not do so.
Manchin told reporters that he will not move forward on selecting any replacement or on his decisions to run for the vacant Senate seat until McGraw returns his ruling on when the election can be held.
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