CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Joe Manchin has chosen former chief counsel Carte Goodwin, a member of a prominent West Virginia family, to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Manchin announced Goodwin's appointment Friday during a news conference at the West Virginia Capitol.
"I am genuinely confident that Carte Goodwin will look out for West Virginia. I know West Virginia is better off since he's passed this way," Manchin said.
Manchin said the seat will always be known as the U.S. Senate seat held by Byrd, but Goodwin will "look out for West Virginia and will work hard for West Virginia."
Goodwin is expected to be sworn in as a senator on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Charleston lawyer would hold the seat until November. That's when the governor wants general election voters to decide who will serve the final two years of Byrd's term. The Legislature has begun a special session to consider a proposal from Manchin to allow for a fall vote.
Byrd was the longest-serving senator in history when he died last month at 92. Goodwin, the youngest among those considered potential choices, worked on Manchin's 2004 campaign for governor before becoming his chief lawyer. He served in that post until shortly after Manchin began his second term in 2009, leaving for his family's law firm.
"We passed this torch to another generation," Manchin said. "I have been pushing young people to get involved in public service. We have passed that torch."
Watch video of the announcement press conference:
Last year, Manchin tapped Goodwin to lead an extensive review of the state's judiciary amid complaints from business groups and conflict-of-interest scandals involving state Supreme Court justices. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor served as the study commission's nonvoting honorary chair.
While Manchin's general counsel, Goodwin was considered key in drafting mine rescue and safety measures passed after fatal accidents at West Virginia's Sago and Aracoma coal mines in early 2006.
The governor's former longtime chief of staff, Larry Puccio, credited Goodwin for his role in that legislation as well as such other major administration policies as the conversion of the state's troubled workers' compensation program into a private insurance company.
"He's just a brilliant attorney, and I think he's very detailed and a disciplined individual," said Puccio, who had also been considered a potential Manchin pick. "I think he's a rising star, and West Virginians would do well if they involved such individuals in the process. I think so much of him."
Like Byrd, the Goodwins have played a major role in West Virginia public service. Goodwin's father, who died in April, was chairman of West Virginia University's Board of Governors. An uncle is a federal judge, while a cousin is the U.S. Attorney for the state's southern federal court district.
Goodwin already has ties to West Virginia's Senate delegation: His wife, Rochelle, is state director for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Byrd's Democratic colleague. Rockefeller called the governor's pick "unquestionably among West Virginia's best and brightest" in a Friday statement.
"He is widely respected and admired across our state ... working with great character, dignity and professionalism to serve and protect the public good," Rockefeller said.
The state Chamber of Commerce, which had urged Manchin to fill in for Byrd, welcomed Friday's choice.
"Anybody who knows Carte likes Carte, enjoys working with him and finds him extremely competent," Chamber President Steve Roberts said. "He is somebody who will represent West Virginia well in Washington and make us proud."
The state's Republican Party chairman, Doug McKinney, said the GOP was interested in Manchin's choice only as long as he was "intelligent and someone from West Virginia to represent us until then."
The governor's appointee is not expected to run for the seat. Manchin has said it's highly likely he will, but he has yet to announce his plans. The GOP's top choice is Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, though she is already seeking a sixth House term.
The likely special election will put another Democratic Senate seat in play this year as the party struggles to retain its majority. Democrats have a 58-41 edge, with Byrd's seat vacant, but are expected to lose seats in November, typical for the president's party in his first midterm elections.
Watch video of Carte Goodwin at a Georgetown University Law School panel in January: