July 21st, 2010
03:24 PM ET
4 years ago

Manchin draws veteran primary challenger

Former Rep. Ken Hechler has entered the West Virginia Senate primary race.
Former Rep. Ken Hechler has entered the West Virginia Senate primary race.

Washington (CNN) – When Robert Byrd passed away last month at the age of 92, he was the oldest member of the Senate, but now, a 95 year-old veteran of West Virginia politics has filed papers to run for the seat.

Former U.S. Congressman Ken Hechler, a Democrat and former West Virginia secretary of state, submitted paperwork Wednesday to enter the special election Senate primary, the Secretary of State's office confirmed to CNN. He'll be challenging the state's governor, Joe Manchin, also a Democrat, who announced Tuesday that he's running for Byrd's seat.

If elected, Hechler will be 96 years old when he assumes the Senate seat in 2011.

Hechler served in the House of Representatives from 1959-1977, and was elected to four terms as West Virginia Secretary of State.

In his long career, Hechler has rubbed shoulders with some of the giants of American politics. According to the biography on his website, Hechler was a special assistant in charge of research for President Truman, as well as research director for Adlai Stevenson.

South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond was the oldest person to serve in the Senate, and was 100 years old at the time of his death in 2003. If Hechler is elected and serves a full term in the Senate, he would become the oldest Senator in history.

In recent years, Hechler has waged a campaign against mountaintop removal mining, and according to the Charleston Daily Mail, was arrested last summer for obstructing and impeding the flow of traffic outside a Massey Energy prep plant in West Virginia.

Manchin's announcement came one day after the West Virginia state legislature approved a plan to hold a special election in November to fill Byrd's seat. Late Monday night, Manchin - a popular two-term Democratic governor - signed the measure after a compromise worked out by state lawmakers won final approval. The primary contests will be August 28 and the general election for Byrd's successor will take place as part of the congressional mid-term contests on November 2.

The 92 year-old Byrd, the longest serving senator in the nation's history, died last month. On Friday Manchin named attorney and political confidante Carte Goodwin to temporarily fill Byrd's seat. Goodwin was sworn into the Senate Tuesday afternoon. He has indicated he will not run in the special election.

Hechler was not available for comment Wednesday when contacted by CNN.


Filed under: 2010 • Joe Manchin • West Virginia
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Larry

    LOL.

    This is what we get for feeding these guys for so long for free.

    No more feeding the politicians! It just makes them come back for more and more.

    July 21, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  2. Joe

    This is like something out of Saturday Night Live. Is he kidding? "Elect me–I'm even older than Senator Byrd!"

    July 21, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  3. Bob, Virginia

    I hear that Hechler used to refer to Byrd as "that young whippersnapper."

    July 21, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  4. mj

    Oh pleasssse – What possible reason could a 95 year old man or woman have to run for a Senate seat? This is ludicrous. Hard to get rid of a old Democrat, but I trust we will.

    July 21, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  5. lc

    John Mccain do need to go and retire not to mention all the other haters out there thats keeping this country in termol if it was left up to the republican party a lot of us would still be slaves under-cover Klansmen. Everyone needs to get out there and vote in these small elections and vote them republicans out some of them have been up there running this country in the ground with there thinking its bad when you teach bad behavior their just out there with their hands open taking the working American's down the drain while their pockets stay fat. Everyone get out there and vote like you came out for the Presidential Election. Don't vote them Senators back in there for the fifty- time we need new Blood not Old Blood running this country.

    July 21, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    There is too old. This man might be it. There is no mention of how well he is moving around on his own and this abilities to think and speak. If they are impaired at all, then he should not be running.

    July 21, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    Bless his heart. He probably just wants his obit to read "also ran for Senate in 2010".

    Guess how far he'll get at that age.

    July 21, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  8. Redneck_Ted

    Too OLD!!!!!!!!!!! What happened to RETIRING at 65!!!!
    In addition to Term Limits, Congress should also have age limits.

    July 21, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. pc

    THIS IS INSANE! what a waste of democratic money. this will only hurt manchin in the process an leaves open a republican to run against both. soooo stupid at this man's age,no matter how good of a politician he once was, this man is to old!

    July 21, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. bettie

    I truly hope West Virginians put a stop once and for all to this nonsense of putting 90-somethings in the U.S. Congress. Nothing against seniors (I'm one myself), but Congress is no place for someone over 90.

    July 21, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |