[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/21/art.hechler.gi.jpg caption="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.