House OKs Senate election compromise bill

Thompson

Tomblin

CHARLESTON -- It's looking more likely that West Virginia will hold a special primary election May 14 and a special gubernatorial election Oct. 4.

The House of Delegates on Thursday approved the Senate's "compromise bill" calling for the two dates.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved the bill, which kept intact the House's date for a primary. The bill, however, kept the Senate's date for the gubernatorial election.

The day before, both chambers suspended the constitutional rule requiring that a bill be read on three separate days to speed up voting.

The bill now goes to Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who has said he would agree to whichever dates make the final version of the legislation.

"On behalf of the citizens of West Virginia, I want to commend the Legislature for coming to such a speedy resolution regarding of dates for the primary and the new election for this year," Tomblin said in a statement. "As I have said on previous occasions, I was confident that both houses would work together to come to an acceptable timeline that allows all the citizens of our great state the opportunity to select a nominee of their choice in a primary election as well as the chance to vote for their candidate in the new election."

Tomblin previously issued a proclamation on Jan. 21 calling for a special gubernatorial election on Oct. 4 and June 20 for a primary.

His proclamation was in line with a ruling issued by the state Supreme Court on Jan. 18 that West Virginians will elect a new governor this year.

Tomblin, who took over for now-U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who resigned with more than a year left in his term, had argued that an election wasn't needed until 2012. However, now, according to the Supreme Court ruling, a governor must be elected by Nov. 15.

Both bills also are in line with Tomblin's wish -- and that of most other state leaders -- that a primary be held instead of a nominating convention.

Thompson said in a statement Monday that House members took into consideration the benefits of holding a nominating convention, including its savings to taxpayers.

According to the Secretary of State's Office, if nominations were done by the convention process, the three major parties -- Democratic, Republican and Mountain -- each would bear the cost of their own conventions. Counties then would pay for the gubernatorial election.

That, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant has said, could cost $3 million to $4 million.

If a primary were held instead of a convention, the cost to counties could increase by another $3 million to $4 million, Tennant has said.

Despite the cost, Thompson said delegates agreed that a speedy primary and general election were "most appropriate."

As of Thursday, seven candidates have filed to run for governor. They include:

* Former Secretary of State Betty Ireland, a Republican from Kanawha County;

* Jesse Johnson, a member of the Mountain Party from Kanawha County;

* State Delegate Patrick Lane, a Republican from Kanawha County;

* Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia, a Republican;

* Tennant, a Democrat from Kanawha County;

* Thompson, a Democrat from Wayne County; and

* Tomblin, a Democrat from Logan County.

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