"My grandfather had many friends in the U.S. Senate," Richard Neely said. "He had enough friends that he had the votes on the floor to have Joe Rosier seated."
Rosier failed to hold the seat, losing the resulting special election to Republican Hugh Ike Shott.
But Rosier was an acknowledged placeholder, meant to allow Matthew Neely to return to the Senate in 1942. That didn't happen: While he bested ex-Gov. Herman Kump in their party's primary, Neely lost that November to Chapman Revercomb.
Revercomb was the GOP's nominee after Shott chose to retire. Richard Neely attributes his grandfather's defeat to two factors: his siding with FDR against the United Mine Workers union during a coal strike threat, and his popularity in the office he already held.
"A lot of people voted against him because they wanted him to stay as governor," Neely said.
Matthew Neely later displaced Revercomb in a 1948 rematch. But Revercomb would again play spoiler in 1956, when Gov. William Marland sought a Senate seat.
Marland had appointed fellow Democrat William R. Laird III upon the death of Sen. Harvey Kilgore. Laird chose not to run, and Marland lost the general election to Revercomb.
The legacy of West Virginia governors eyeing the U.S. Senate began with its first chief executive, Arthur Boreman. He left office in 1869, just days before his term as governor ended, to accept a nomination to the Senate.
As voters did not directly elect senators until the 17th Amendment became law in 1913, the Legislature decided Boreman's successor. Two other West Virginians were appointed to Senate seats before that change. Democrat Samuel Price and Davis Elkins, a Republican, each filled vacancies caused by the death of the incumbent. In Elkins' case, it was his father. For both appointees, the Legislature chose other candidates when those seats came up for election.
Republican Gov. Howard Gore, meanwhile, was the other sitting governor who failed in his Senate bid. Gore lost his party's primary to another notable state political figure, Henry Hatfield.
For its review, The Associated Press consulted the Senate's online roster of appointees, Congress' biographical directory, historical election results and veteran Charleston Gazette reporter John Morgan's book "West Virginia Governors."