Manchin Names Carte Goodwin to Byrd's Senate Seat

The West Virginia governor hasn't ruled out a run for the seat.

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West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin on Friday appointed his former counsel Carte Goodwin to the late Sen. Robert Byrd's seat for the rest of this year. Manchin has said it is highly likely he will run in the state's expected November special election to fill the remainder of Byrd's senate term, which expires in 2012.

Manchin called Goodwin's appointment a way to honor Byrd. "I am genuinely confident that Carte Goodwin will look out for West Virginia," said Manchin.

Goodwin, 36, is an intellectual property and commercial transaction lawyer at his family owned Charleston, West Virginia practice, Goodwin and Goodwin. He served as Manchin's general counsel from 2005-2009, having previously worked on the governor's 2004 campaign, before returning to private practice. His wife, Rochell, is state director for West Virginia's now senior senator, and Byrd's close colleague, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Rockefeller said at Friday's press conference that Goodwin's appointment will give the Senate the 60th vote to "take up and pass unemployment compensation." Goodwin will become the youngest member of the Senate when he is sworn in on Tuesday, and said he is anxious to roll up his sleeves and "get to Washington and delve right in."

The West Virginia legislature has been working this week to set up a special election for Byrd's seat, which is likely to be held on the same day as the midterms. Manchin is expected to announce as early as this weekend whether he will seek a bid for the Senate. He stands a good chance. Manchin won his 2004 and 2008 gubernatorial races easily and has high approval ratings and name recognition, due in part to his leadership during April's Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 coal miners.

But Byrd's absence in the Senate makes the West Virginia seat vulnerable for Democrats. Goodwin is not expected to run in the fall special election. The state's only Republican member of congress, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, has not ruled out running for the seat. Another Republican John Raese expressed interest in running for Byrd's seat. The West Virginia businessman ran unsuccessfully against Rockefeller in 1984 and Byrd in 2006. [See where Capito's campaign cash comes from.]

Byrd died on June 28 and, at the age of 92, was the chamber's longest serving member. In his more than 50 years in the Senate, he served as majority leader, chair of the Appropriations committee, and was known for bringing many federally finances projects to West Virginia.