Ex-Manchin aide tapped for Byrd seat

36-year-old attorney Carte Goodwin will serve the remainder of the late West Virginia senator's term

Published July 16, 2010 5:22PM (EDT)

Gov. Joe Manchin is tapping former chief counsel Carte Goodwin, a member of a prominent West Virginia family, to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Democratic officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

Three people familiar with the governor's pick spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment ahead of an official announcement.

Manchin is scheduled to present his appointee at a Friday afternoon press conference at the Capitol. His choice is expected to be sworn in as a senator on Tuesday.

The 36-year-old Goodwin, a Charleston lawyer, would hold the seat until November. That's when the governor wants general election voters to decide who will serve the final two years of Byrd's term. The Legislature has begun a special session to consider a proposal from Manchin to allow for a fall vote.

Byrd was the longest-serving senator in history when he died last month at 92. Goodwin, the youngest among those considered potential choices, worked on Manchin's 2004 campaign for governor before becoming his chief lawyer. He served in that post until shortly after Manchin began his second term in 2009, leaving for his family's law firm.

Last year, Manchin tapped Goodwin to lead an extensive review of the state's judiciary amid complaints from business groups and conflict-of-interest scandals involving state Supreme Court justices. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor served as the study commission's nonvoting honorary chair.

While Manchin's general counsel, Goodwin was considered key in drafting mine rescue and safety measures passed after fatal accidents at West Virginia's Sago and Aracoma coal mines in early 2006.

The governor's former longtime chief of staff, Larry Puccio, credited Goodwin for his role in that legislation as well as such other major administration policies as the conversion of the state's troubled workers' compensation program into a private insurance company.

"He's just a brilliant attorney, and I think he's very detailed and a disciplined individual," said Puccio, who had also been considered a potential Manchin pick. "I think he's a rising star, and West Virginians would do well if they involved such individuals in the process. I think so much of him."

Like Byrd, the Goodwins have played a major role in West Virginia public service. Goodwin's father, who died in April, was chairman of West Virginia University's Board of Governors. An uncle is a federal judge, while a cousin is the U.S. Attorney for the state's southern federal court district.

Goodwin already has ties to West Virginia's Senate delegation: His wife, Rochelle, is state director for Byrd's Democratic colleague, Sen. Jay Rockefeller. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., declined comment until there was an official announcement. Reid was slated to be in West Virginia for a Friday campaign fundraiser.

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The state Chamber of Commerce, which had urged Manchin to fill in for Byrd, welcomed the choice.

"Anybody who knows Carte likes Carte, enjoys working with him and finds him extremely competent," Chamber President Steve Roberts said. "He is somebody who will represent West Virginia well in Washington and make us proud."

The state's Republican Party chairman, Doug McKinney, said the GOP was interested in Manchin's choice only as long as he was "intelligent and someone from West Virginia to represent us until then."

The governor's appointee is not expected to run for the seat. Manchin has said it's highly likely he will, but he has yet to announce his plans. The GOP's top choice is Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, though she is already seeking a sixth House term.

The likely special election will put another Democratic Senate seat in play this year as the party struggles to retain its majority. Democrats have a 58-41 edge, with Byrd's seat vacant, but are expected to lose seats in November, typical for the president's party in his first midterm elections.


Associated Press Staff Writer John Raby in Charleston contributed to this report.

By Lawrence Messina

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