West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin: Senate Run 'Highly Likely'

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BOSTON — West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said Friday that he'll make a decision next week on whether to run for the late Robert C. Byrd's Senate seat.

"It's highly likely I will," he told The Associated Press at the National Governors Association meeting.

His comment came a day after West Virginia's top lawyer cleared the way for the governor to declare a special election this fall to fill what remains of Byrd's term. The opinion prompted the governor's chief legal counsel to advise Friday that Manchin call a special legislative session to clarify state election law.

Manchin sought the legal opinion after joining a growing push to hold a vote earlier than 2012, when Byrd would have faced re-election.

Byrd, 92, died last week after more than a half-century in the Senate. He had just over 30 months left in his term.

Pending an election, the governor will appoint someone to fill the vacancy. The governor has said he won't arrange to have himself appointed.

Manchin, who has enjoyed solid approval ratings throughout his tenure as governor, won re-election in 2008 with nearly 70 percent of the vote and carried all 55 counties. Halfway through his second term, the state constitution bars Manchin from running again for governor in 2012.

Potential Republican special election candidates include Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. Already running for a sixth U.S. House term, Capito would not rule out seeking Byrd's seat when she joined calls this week for a vote before 2012.