CHARLESTON –- A South Charleston attorney says he stilll plans to file a lawsuit to require a timely special election to fill the unexpired term for governor now that Gov. Joe Manchin has been elected to the U.S. Senate.
Thornton Cooper said as he sees it, current state law requires a special election if the seat is vacated within three years of the beginning of the term.
The current law also does not specify any timelines for when that election must be held.
"I gave notice in August that I would be pursuing this action if the current law was not corrected, and it still hasn't," Cooper said.
On Aug. 9, Cooper gave notice to Manchin, state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, state Attorney General Darrell McGraw, Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant and House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson that he was planning to pursue legal action if the current law was not corrected.
"Tomblin will be taking over for the governor when he leaves for the (U.S.) Senate," Cooper said. "He will become our acting governor until November 2012 without even being elected, unless they correct the law."
Cooper said West Virginia's Constitution envisioned a reasonable election date and that it would be costly for the state not to hold an election.
"Our state's residents should be making the decision on who will be our governor," Cooper said. "It's our right to do so."
Cooper, who recently ran for Kanawha County Clerk and lost to Vera McCormick, said he now is focusing on his lawsuit and demanding an immediate election for governor.
"If I don't pursue this action, Tomblin will be our acting governor for more than 700 days," Cooper said. "I think we need a special election, and I want to see our new governor sworn in by Memorial Day."
In Cooper's notice, he said the first 30 days after the date of Manchin's vacancy would be the filing period for candidates to file for the office; the special primary election should be held within 90 days; and the special general election should be held within 150 days of the vacancy.
Cooper said he plans to file his lawsuit later this month if the state does not correct current law.
"They haven't fixed it yet," Cooper said. "They've had plenty of time to correct the current law and haven't."