West Virginia's attorney general Thursday ruled that the state can hold a special election this November to fill the last two years of the term of the late Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd. State officials had originallly said that the election could not be held under state law until November 2012.
Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin, who many expect to run for the seat held by Mr. Byrd for more than a half-century, had supported the expedited vote. Rep. Shelly Moore Capito is seen as the leading Republican contender for the seat.
The election could be critical to the balance of power in the Senate, where Democrats now are just shy of the 60 votes needed to break Republican filibusters.
Attorney General Darrell McGraw, also a Democrat, ruled that the governor can declare a special election. The ruling means the governor can now call a special legislative session to settle details such as candidate filing rules and party nomination deadlines.
Mr. Manchin has indicated he will appoint an interim senator until the vote this fall, but has said he would not appoint himself to the post.
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