We've got to hand it to West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw. He nailed it about the need for a special election.
In a legal opinion issued last week, McGraw came out resolutely in favor of a special election this year to find a replacement for deceased Sen. Robert Byrd.
Gov. Joe Manchin had asked McGraw for a "second opinion" after Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's "first opinion" provoked howls of protest from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Arguing that a special election could not be held this November because the primary election already had transpired, Tennant concluded that Manchin should appoint someone to fill Byrd's seat until a November 2012 election.
Dismissing Tennant's plan as "awkward," McGraw argued that state law "authorizes the governor to proclaim a special election to fill the remainder of Sen. Byrd's unexpired term, since said unexpired term exceeded two years and six months at the time the vacancy occurred."
McGraw's opinion is lawful, sensible and fair.
"Since a general election is already scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010," he observed, "it is suggested that a special primary election be held at a time which maximizes the opportunity for all potential candidates to prepare for both the special election and the general election, and for all voters, including those in the armed services, to participate and have their voices heard."
Given the public outcry against Tennant's plan and the favorable reception to McGraw's, Gov. Manchin, a possible candidate for Byrd's seat, has promised to consult with leaders in the state Legislature about the mechanics of a special election this year.
Having represented West Virginia for 51 years, Robert Byrd was the longest-serving U.S. Senator in American history. Though his successor is not likely to have as long a run, finding a replacement for such a man is a serious matter. And who that person will be is a decision that belongs to the voters and no one else.
Darrell McGraw deserves credit for protecting our right to choose our public servants.