West Virginia Governor Taps Former Aide for Byrd Seat

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West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has tapped a former aide to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Robert C. Byrd.

Manchin said Friday that former chief counsel Carte Goodwin will serve in the post. Goodwin is expected to take the oath of office on Tuesday.

The 36-year-old Goodwin served as Manchin's general counsel from 2005 until early 2009.

Goodwin would hold the seat until November, when the governor wants general election voters to decide who will serve the final two years of Byrd's term.The Legislature has begun a special session to consider a proposal from Manchin to allow for a fall vote.

Byrd was the Senate's longest-serving member when he died last month at 92.

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Goodwin, the youngest among those considered potential choices, worked on Manchin's 2004 campaign for governor before coming his chief lawyer. He served in that post until shortly after Manchin began his second term in 2009, leaving for his family's law firm.

Last year, Manchin tapped Goodwin to lead an extensive review of the state's judiciary amid complaints from business groups and conflict-of-interest scandals involving state Supreme Court justices. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor served as the study commission's nonvoting honorary chair.

While Manchin's general counsel, Goodwin was considered key in drafting mine rescue and safety measures passed after fatal accidents at West Virginia's Sago and Aracoma coal mines in early 2006.

Like Byrd, the Goodwins have played a major role in West Virginia public service. Goodwin's father, who died in April, was chairman of West Virginia University's Board of Governors. An uncle is a federal judge, while a cousin is the U.S. Attorney for the state's southern federal court district.

Goodwin already has ties to West Virginia's Senate delegation: His wife, Rochelle, is state director for Byrd's Democratic colleague, Sen. Jay Rockefeller. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., declined comment until there was an official announcement. Reid was slated to be in West Virginia for a Friday campaign fundraiser.

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The state Chamber of Commerce, which had urged Manchin to fill in for Byrd, welcomed the choice.

"Anybody who knows Carte likes Carte, enjoys working with him and finds him extremely competent," Chamber President Steve Roberts said. "He is somebody who will represent West Virginia well in Washington and make us proud."

The state's Republican Party chairman, Doug McKinney, said the GOP was interested in Manchin's choice only as long as he was "intelligent and someone from West Virginia to represent us until then."

Manchin has said it's highly likely he will run for Byrd's seat, but has yet to announce his plan. The GOP's top choice is Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, though she is already seeking a sixth House term.

The likely special election will put another Democratic Senate seat in play this year as the party struggles to retain its majority. Democrats have a 58-41 edge, with Byrd's seat vacant, but are expected to lose seats in November, typical for the president's party in his first midterm elections.