West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said Wednesday he will consider running for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Democrat Robert C. Byrd if it's on the November ballot.
He wants an opinion from Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw on whether the election can be held this year instead of 2012, when Byrd would have had to run again.
Manchin said he won't appoint himself to the seat, but asked if he would run for it, he replied: "I would highly consider that. I do understand what's at stake here."
Byrd, 92, was the longest-serving senator in history when he died last week with about 30 months left in his term. Conflicting state laws and a 1994 state court ruling led the state's chief elections officer to conclude that whomever Manchin appointed would not have to face voters until 2012.
But that official, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, has since become part of a growing chorus calling for Manchin and state lawmakers to put the seat on this year's ballot.
At a Capitol press conference Wednesday, Manchin said he will hold off filling the vacancy until McGraw issues an opinion. The governor said he has already assembled a short list of potential choices.
Manchin said his roster includes named already mentioned in press reports, but not First Lady Gayle Manchin, a rumored possibility. Other names mentioned include former state Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey; his successor, longtime Manchin aide Larry Puccio; Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin; and veteran Byrd staffer Anne Barth.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the GOP's top prospect for the seat, also said Wednesday she wants voters to decide in November who should fill it. Her campaign spokesman said she has not ruled out running.
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