CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Speculation that Gov. Joe Manchin will call a special session to correct a discrepancy in state election law, in order to allow a special election this fall for Robert C. Byrd's U.S. Senate seat, is apparently just that -- speculation.
Manchin spokesman Melvin Smith said Wednesday he didn't know of any discussions regarding a special session to correct the law.
"The governor told me he's strictly focused on making sure we honor the memory of the late senator," Smith said. "He won't address anything involving this seat until after the memorial services."
Manchin told Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday that he does not plan to put the election law on a special session call, said Raamie<co > Barker, administrative assistant to Tomblin.
"The president said this morning, the governor told him he would not do that," Barker said of a special session.
He said Tomblin, D-Logan, had an "informal conversation" with Manchin after hearing Charleston Mayor Danny Jones tell a radio audience he has reason to believe there will be a special session to change the election law.
Manchin told Tomblin "he didn't know where Danny Jones had gotten that information," Barker said.
Speculation over the possibility of a special session has been rampant since Monday, when Secretary of State Natalie Tennant announced that her staff's attorneys have determined that it will be impossible to hold a special election to fill Byrd's unexpired term until 2012.
The law specifies that there is to be a special election if there is more than two years and six months remaining in an unexpired term for U.S. Senate.
However, the law states that the nominees for the special election are to be selected during the first primary election after the vacancy occurs, and the next primary elections in West Virginia will be in May 2012.
Critics of that scenario have noted that would mean the individual appointed to fill the "temporary" vacancy could serve in the U.S. Senate for as long as 31 months, while the successor elected in the special election would serve for only five to six weeks.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.