CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In his first public appearance since the Nov. 2 election, Senate president and acting governor-to-be Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, said Monday he will focus on executive branch duties when he takes office.
"I will spend my time as governor running the executive branch of government," Tomblin said during a press conference before an overflow crowd in the governor's reception room. "I do not plan on presiding over or voting in the Senate."
Although the constitution requires that he maintain the title of Senate president in order to serve as acting governor, Tomblin said he will turn the day-to-day duties of running Senate floor sessions to the president pro tempore, currently Sen. Joe Minard, D-Harrison.
While he will not publicly participate in Senate activities, Tomblin said he will probably continue to attend Senate Democratic Party caucuses -- closed-door meetings that are held frequently during legislative sessions to determine where the majority party stands on key issues.
By law, Tomblin, 58, will automatically become acting governor the moment Gov. Joe Manchin resigns the office, a transition that could occur as early as Friday, and probably no later than Nov. 15.
Also Monday, Tomblin said he believes the current law is clear that the elections to fill the vacancy created by Manchin's election to the U.S. Senate are to be held in 2012 -- concurrently with the election of a new governor for a full four-year term, that will begin in January 2013.
Tomblin said he will not call a special session this fall for legislation to require a special election in 2011, and will leave it up to "what the people want" as to whether to address the gubernatorial succession law in the 2011 regular session.
"I am well aware of the strong desires of some wishing to have an election prior to 2012," Tomblin said, adding, "If my fellow West Virginians express an overwhelming desire to have a quick election, I will work with the Legislature to make that a reality."
However, Tomblin urged legislators to take a "reasoned and thoughtful approach" to making any change to the succession law, noting, "We must keep in mind the potential costs, timing and what is in the best interests of West Virginia."
Tomblin did not comment on a potential lawsuit to ask the state Supreme Court to order a 2011 special election.
Tomblin spoke to a Capitol reception room overflow crowd that included legislators -- including eight senators who stood behind him at the podium -- state agency heads and prominent lobbyists.
He drew the loudest applause of the day with a one-word response to a question on whether he plans to run for a full-term as governor in 2012: "Absolutely."
As acting governor, Tomblin said he will stress the fiscal responsibility that has marked his tenure as Senate president, and prior, as Senate Finance Committee chairman.
He noted that when he became Finance chairman in 1985, the state was virtually bankrupt.