PARKERSBURG - Most callers want the governor to succeed U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the new chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party said Monday.
Larry Puccio, former chief of staff for Gov. Joe Manchin, said an overwhelming number of residents who have called him since becoming party chairman support Manchin.
"They believe Joe Manchin is the person who can help us the most in Washington today," said Puccio, who was elected chairman less than two weeks ago.
Manchin has said he won't appoint himself to succeed Byrd, the Senate's longest-serving member in history. Byrd, 92, died June 28.
What's arising as an issue is whether Manchin will call a special session to change the law so there's an election this year for a successor rather an appointment.
Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant last week said the state code, when more than 30 months remain in the Senate term, requires the governor appoint someone to serve the unexpired term until a successor has been elected. That election can't be held until 2012 because the code requires a candidate to have filed during the filing period, which has passed for 2010, she said.
Manchin's appointment will serve 31 months and the person elected in a special election to the unexpired term will serve around six weeks.
Also in 2012 will be the election for the new six-term, which starts in January 2013.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the West Virginia Republican Party on Monday has added themselves to the supporters of a special legislative session to change the law and schedule a special election this year, according to Associated Press. GOP Chairman Dr. Doug McKinney Friday said the party would make the request this week.
The state code has no "clear or absolute" process for filling a vacancy and that the voters of West Virginia should select who will represent them in the Senate, the chamber said.
The governor in respect to the late senator's family has been focused on the ceremonies honoring Byrd and is waiting for those to conclude, Puccio said.
Manchin also hasn't indicated what his intentions are about a special legislative session, although, "We always feel more comfortable when individuals have an opportunity to vote," he said.
A service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Memorial Baptist Church at 3455 N. Glebe Road, Arlington, Va., where the ceremony is public, but seating is limited. Byrd will be buried near his wife, Erma, who died in 2006, in a private service at Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington. The Byrds lived in McLean, Va.
Byrd's staff on Monday also released a schedule for the service:
* 9:30 a.m., hearse arrives at Memorial Baptist Church with a military honor guard to escort the casket into the church.
* 9:45 a.m., private family time inside the church.
* 10:15 a.m., doors open.
* 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., funeral and Celebration of Life. Speakers will include: the Rev. Dr. William H. Smith, retired pastor, Memorial Baptist Church; Rev. Barry C. Black, chaplain of the U.S. Senate; family remembrances from the Rev. Thomas Phythian, Hospice chaplain; the homily by Smith.
* 12:30 p.m. (time approximate), recessional, military honor guard.
* 12:45 p.m., hearse departs for private burial.