CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Saying he believes 2 1/2 years is too long for an appointee to fill Robert C. Byrd's vacated U.S. Senate seat, Gov. Joe Manchin asked for a formal legal opinion Wednesday on holding a special election for the office later this year.
If there is a special election for the Senate seat this fall, Manchin said he would "highly consider" running for it.
Manchin reiterated that, despite calls from business and labor groups to do so, he will not -- and cannot -- appoint himself to fill Byrd's seat.
Manchin has about 2 1/2 years remaining in his second term as governor.
"I will not move forward on this appointment or the succession process until the attorney general's opinion is rendered," said Manchin, who hopes Attorney General Darrell McGraw will issue a response by early next week.
Last week, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said her staff attorneys had concluded that, under current state law for filling U.S. Senate vacancies, a special election cannot be held before 2012 -- the same year that the full six-year term for Byrd's Senate seat will be on the ballot.
Manchin said Wednesday he does not dispute Tennant's interpretation of the current law, but said a temporary appointee to the Senate should not be able to serve a longer term in Congress than a person elected to a full two-year term in the House of Representatives.
"To assume we can appoint someone for longer than someone can be elected and serve, that doesn't make sense to me," Manchin said.
In the letter to McGraw, Manchin raised several legal questions regarding the possibility of holding a special election later this year.
After the attorney general issues his opinion, Manchin said, he will meet with legislative leaders to determine whether to put reform of the state's succession laws on the agenda for a special session later this month.
The Legislature is tentatively scheduled to return to Charleston July 19 for a special session dealing with public school reform.
Manchin noted that, in addition to the senatorial succession law, there are also problems with the current gubernatorial succession law, which permits a Senate president to serve as both acting governor and Senate leader concurrently.