CHARLESTON — A South Charleston lawyer said he intends to take legal action to require a timely special election to fill the unexpired term for governor in the event that Gov. Joe Manchin wins the U.S. Senate election this fall.
Thornton Cooper told the Charleston Gazette that his goal is to have the newly elected governor inaugurated by Memorial Day 2011.
Cooper, a retired state employee and Democratic candidate for Kanawha County clerk, filed notice with the State of his intent to sue if there is not a timely election to fill the vacancy.
Manchin is seeking the U.S. Senate seat previously held by the late Robert Byrd. He appointed Carte Goodwin, his former general counsel, as a temporary replacement.
After a debate over when a special election could be held, Manchin and lawmakers drew up plans to have it done this year.
The current law requires the acting governor to hold a special election if there is more than one year remaining in the unexpired gubernatorial term, but it does not specify any timelines for when the election must be held, the Gazette reported.
Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, would become acting governor as soon as Manchin vacated the office.
Tomblin previously said he does not believe the special elections need to be held until the regular scheduled 2012 primary and general elections.
In his notice to the state, also reported by the Gazette, Cooper called on Manchin to "prevent this absurd and unconstitutional" scenario by promptly calling a special session of the Legislature to clarify state law regarding gubernatorial vacancies.
A poll by a Charleston-based opinion research firm shows Manchin with a sizeable lead in a likely Nov. 2 special election face-off with Morgantown businessman John Raese. The poll was done by R.L. Repass and Partners showed Manchin with a 54-percent-to-32-percent margin against Raese, with 14 percent of likely voters polled undecided.
The poll also found that Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is the most formidable of the would-be candidates for the governor's office.