Early voting starts Wednesday in West Virginia's special election for a short-term temporary governor. It's an odd event: a rare two-person election (or five, if you count three fringe aspirants). The winner on Oct. 4 will serve only briefly, until next year's regular election.
Acting incumbent Earl Ray Tomblin is the obvious choice to continue in the office he already fills. State government has functioned smoothly during the months he has occupied the governor's chair as an unelected stopgap. There's no reason to cause temporary upheaval by replacing him for the interim year.
Tomblin is an experienced veteran of government service. Logan County voters sent him to the House of Delegates three times in the 1970s, and to the state Senate repeatedly ever since. In 1995, he began his tenure as the longest-serving Senate president in state history. He was the first West Virginian ever chosen to head the National Council of State Governments.
During his 16 years of leadership, West Virginia has made admirable strides in frugality and wise budgeting. Billions of state pension deficits were paid off. The bankrupt Workers Compensation system was privatized. Two months ago, the state government ended its fiscal year with a $330 million surplus -- making West Virginia the envy of many states that are in crisis after the Great Recession.
Tomblin holds a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University, plus a master's in business from Marshall University, and also attended the University of Charleston. He formerly was a schoolteacher and business executive.
Tomblin is reasonable and practical, able to work with all factions. He's endorsed by both worker-minded labor unions and the business-minded state Chamber of Commerce.
Although the chamber usually backs Republicans, it threw its support to Democrat Tomblin on grounds that he has a "solid record ... of experience, leadership and ability to work with the Legislature." The chamber president praised his "outstanding record of accomplishment."
In contrast, the GOP nominee for governor never has held any public office.
In May's special primary election, only 16 percent of West Virginia's 1.2 million registered voters bothered to vote. That's pathetic. Evidently, 84 percent of West Virginians didn't care who's governor. We hope better citizenship is displayed in the impending showdown.For all who care enough to vote, we recommend Tomblin be chosen for the one-year governorship until the 2012 election.