CHARLESTON — West Virginia's top Republican prospect ruled out running for the remaining U.S. Senate term of the late Robert C. Byrd on Wednesday, leaving the GOP without an obvious candidate for the seat Democrats hope to keep to retain a slim Senate majority.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito made the announcement a day after popular Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin launched his candidacy. Capito decided not run despite a special election measure that would have allowed her to seek both a sixth U.S. House term and Byrd's seat on the same Nov. 2 general election ballot.
The 56-year-old Capito faces a political novice, Virginia Lynch Graf, as the Democratic nominee in her 18-county district. Manchin, a centrist Democrat now in his second term, is the sole candidate so far in the race for the bulk of what remains of Byrd's term.
The 2nd District Republican said a dual candidacy would "create more uncertainty, invite a legal challenge, and misrepresent my priorities as a public servant. "
West Virginia GOP Chairman Doug McKinney said he's not heard from any Republicans seriously weighing a run. He noted that any candidate would likely face raising several million dollars to mount a credible campaign, while facing a short timeframe.
John Raese, a Morgantown industrialist and former Republican Party chair who lost to Byrd in 2006, has told reporters he was considering entering the race. The filing deadline is Friday.
Capito said in a campaign statement that there has been enough chaos and controversy surrounding the vacancy in the U.S. Senate.
"The outcome could ultimately place my re-election to the House of Representatives in jeopardy and would leave the final decision in the hands of state officials rather than the voters," she said.
The state GOP's McKinney said Capito's decision was disappointing after the Legislature's minority Republicans won the amendment that would have allowed Capito to run for both offices.
"They went out on a limb and really extended themselves to get that provision in there," McKinney said. "They're going to be disappointed, and I think most West Virginians will be disappointed."