CHARLESTON -- Sometimes its tough to be Governor.
And, Joe Manchin has a colossal decision ahead of him.
The general assumption is current Justice Joe Albright will not return to the court. He will have to be replaced.
Albright's term is up in 2012. So, whoever Joe appoints will sit in the seat for two years until the 2010 election. They will also likely be relied upon to run for the full 12-year term in 2012. Joe's pick will have the inside track to fill a critical court seat with a 3-2 majority for ... get this ... fourteen years.
Talk about a huge roadblock on the way to Joe's U.S. Senate seat.
Joe's choice will be a critical one for the future of the state. A sitting, incumbent Justice will have an easier time defending his Supreme Court seat than someone trying to take his or her place from the outside. With the one vote balance of power on the Court, the position will be critical to determine the direction (conservative or liberal) of the Court for the next 14 years.
Let's face it, Robin Davis has done a good job on the Court and been considered a fair-minded jurist. If she runs for re-election in 2012 she is a shoo-in because of that record, and, well the fact that she has an unlimited supply of cash to put into any campaign considering she is one of West Virginia's wealthiest citizens.
That leaves the Albright seat as the only seat between now and Benjamin's seat in 2016 as the only truly "open" seat.
Think about that. This court is a 3-2 Court. If Davis runs for re-election in 2012, Albright's seat WILL BE THE ONLY OPEN SEAT ON THE COURT until 2016.
Dare say I think that will be KIND OF an important race with the balance of the court over the next eight to ten years with no chance, other than a death or resignation, to change it.
The choice will be critical when it comes to Joe's relationship with both the business and labor communities. Manchin has an opportunity to set the court in one direction or the other over the next 10 years.
Of course, there is no guarantee (especially if it is a conservative Democrat, all of whom have been obliterated in Democrat primary elections) that Manchin's choice will win in 2010 or again in 2012.
But, Joe's choice will have an inside track as a sitting Justice. Joe may be feeling invincible right now and for business' sake, let's hope he is and is willing to buck Labor on this one.
A likely choice from the Democrat side would be former Speaker Bob Kiss. Kiss would be the logical, Democratic conservative choice. He is highly qualified and intelligent. He would make sense and would be a formidable opponent for any labor-backed, trial-lawyer funded opponent in the 2010 primary.
Of course, a Kiss appointment to the Court will cause Labor leaders' heads to spontaneously combust as soon as the appointment is made.
Let's be honest here, there is no way Labor can forgive a Joe appointment of Bob Kiss or some other strong conservative with an good opportunity to win in 2010 or 2012.
Joe could go the course of picking a Justice who has no intention of running for election in 2010. That would be the safe choice for Joe. He could tell business and labor he is appointing a caretaker and they can fight it out in 2010 and 2012 over Albright's permanent replacement.
Or Joe could solidify his standing with Labor and appoint a strong Labor person. Of course, the scenario here is that Joe goes to business and tells them they have two chances of beating that person.
Republicans have a good chance either way. If a Labor person is picked, they will have two shots to win it (after the business Democrat gets killed in the primary, of course). If a conservative Democrat is chosen, then the Republican can simply wait out the primary and hope that the conservative Democrat loses (a good possibility considering other than Spike in 1996, no business-conservative Democrat has won statewide office in a straight up contest against a Labor-oriented Democrat - Manchin doesn't count since he was throwing jackrocks at a Kroger strike before getting elected and his first endorsement was the WVEA).
Whatever way it goes, Joe has a huge opportunity to tilt the Court tilt left or right. The decision will he make will have a major impact on his political future as well.