The 2010 United States Senate special election in West Virginia was held on November 2, 2010. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd died in office on June 28, 2010. Democrat Governor Joe Manchin appointed Carte Goodwin to temporarily fill the vacancy. Goodwin pledged to not run for election to the seat in exchange for the appointment. Governor Joe Manchin won the open seat and served out the remainder of Byrd's elected term, which ended on January 3, 2013.1
Byrd had held his seat in the U.S. Senate since 1959, after having served in the House of Representatives since 1953, making him the longest-serving person in Congress. Byrd led his party in the Senate from 1977 to 1989, as Majority Leader or Minority Leader. Afterwards, as the most senior Democrat in the Senate, he served as President pro tempore of the Senate whenever his party was in the majority, including at the time of his death. The Democrats held a 59-41 seat majority in the Senate at the time of Byrd's death.
West Virginia has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1956,2 but has voted Republican in presidential elections since 2000. Seventy-seven percent of voters in the state approve of Democratic governor Joe Manchin, but only 35% approve of Democratic President Barack Obama.3
Additionally, the Mountain Party has been a slowly growing force in the state, hoping to capitalize on discontent from both political parties.citation needed
State law allowed Governor Joe Manchin to make a temporary appointment to the vacant seat. Manchin named a former aide, 36-year old Carte Goodwin, an attorney and fellow Democrat. Goodwin was sworn in on July 20, 2010, and chose not to run in the special election.4 Hours later, Manchin announced his intention to seek Byrd's seat.5
Timing of the election
Gov. Manchin urged the West Virginia Legislature to pass legislation scheduling the special election for 2010.6 Without a revision, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant believed that state law would not allow an election to be held until 2012.7 On July 19, legislators hammered out a compromise bill setting an Aug. 28 special primary and Nov. 2 special election to elect a senator for the roughly two years and five months remaining in Byrd's term. The bill only changes election law for 2010 and will not apply to other future elections. It also allows a West Virginian who is on the November general election ballot for some other office to also run in the special election.8
Despite Manchin's very high popularity in the state, he received two politically experienced challengers. Hechler is a former Secretary of State and U.S. Representative, who at the age of 95 campaigned across the state on an anti-mountaintop removal platform.12