The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the state must hold a special election for governor by Nov. 15 — a year after Sen. Joe Manchin (D) left and acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) was sworn in.
The decision, which makes West Virginia one of just four states to hold a gubernatorial election this year, should set off a scramble as a big field of candidates jockeys for position in the abbreviated election season.
In the ruling, the court agreed with the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, who brought the case against Tomblin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) and state House Speaker Rick Thompson(D), arguing that the state could not go two years without electing a new governor. The court ordered Tomblin to schedule the special election this year.
Former West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland (R) has already officially entered the race, and Ireland also just said that Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) wouldn’t run for governor. The state GOP chair, Mike Stuart, has expressed interest, as has state Sen. Clarke Barnes (R).
The Democrats have a deep bench in the state: Tomblin is expected to run, and myriad other politicians have expressed interest, including Thompson, acting state Senate Pres. Jeff Kessler (D), state Sen. Brooks McCabe (D), Tennant and Treas. John Perdue (D).
With so few other state-wide races this year, and particularly given that West Virginia is a traditionally Democratic state that has recently been trending increasingly Republican, the race should be a good harbinger for 2012.