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Joe Manchin Makes It Official: He's Running for West Virginia Senate Seat

Joe Manchin
Joe Manchin headshot, as West Virginia Governor, 2006. AP

Hours after signing a law calling for a special election this November to fill the seat of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia's Democrat Governor Joe Manchin has thrown his hat into the ring, announcing his candidacy this morning. He instantly becomes the favorite and all signs point to the Democrats holding on the seat.

Speaking today, Manchin said he hopes he can "serve the people of West Virginia as best I can" and honor Byrd's legacy, according to the Associated Press.

Manchin will take part in an August 28 primary and the November 2 general election. Byrd's term lasts until November 2012. Manchin entered the race on the first day of a 4-day candidate filing period.

Previously, there was disagreement in the statehouse as to when a special election could be held. Manchin asked the state attorney general for a ruling on the legality of holding an election either this fall or waiting until November 2012, as the secretary of state recommended.

After the attorney general said that under state law, the governor has the ability to call an election, Manchin called a special session of the legislature to settle the issue for good. Late yesterday, the legislature reached an agreement on the legislation allowing for the election to be held this year and Manchin signed it last night.

Manchin had said that he was interested in running in the election, but he said he would not appoint himself to the seat. He wanted the legislature to clear up any ambiguity about the legality of an election this fall.

According to the AP, the state's republicans won an amendment in the legislation that allows for a current member of congress to see the nomination for the seat, without abandoning his or her own re-election big. That effectively clears the way for the GOP's choice, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, to enter the senate race.

Last week, Manchin appointed his 36-year old former chief counsel Carte Goodwin to fill the Byrd Senate seat until an election can be held.

As soon as Goodwin is sworn-in today, he will cast a vote for the unemployment benefits package that has been stalled in Congress for months. His 60th vote will allow Senate to pass the $34 billion package extending benefits to the unemployed until November 30. The benefits had expired in June as congress had yet to pass the extension.

Interactive Map: CBS News Election 2010 Race Ratings

Robert Hendin is a CBS News White House producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here.
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