W.Va. governor taps former general counsel to take Byrd's seat

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jul 16, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has selected his former general counsel Carte Goodwin to fill the late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd's seat.

Manchin made the announcement Friday at a news conference. Rumors of Goodwin's appointment had swirled on the Internet late Thursday and into Friday morning.

"I have no agenda, other than fighting for my state and putting the interests of her people first," Goodwin said.

"Robert C. Byrd, the greatest public servant West Virginia has ever known, and a true giant of American history, has left quite a legacy. I cannot begin to replace Senator Byrd, nor can I hope to ever fill his shoes.

"But what I can do is emulate his work ethic and his commitment to West Virginia."

Goodwin, 36, will be the youngest member of the Senate.

Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said early Friday, "I know Carte Goodwin. I think the world of him. I think he's a very good person. I think he will represent the state of West Virginia well in the United States Senate."

Roberts said he has known Goodwin since he began working for state government, which was about five years ago. Goodwin served as the general counsel for Manchin during the governor's first term in office, from 2005-2009.

Roberts said the two have worked closely together on legislation and various policy matters important to the state.

"I think Carte is a fine person and a fine choice," he said. "I'm both happy for him and Gov. Manchin for making this choice."

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said early Friday, "I know Carte Goodwin quite well. And I think he would be an excellent choice.

"I've got confidence in Gov. Manchin. His appointments have always been thoughtful and good for the people of West Virginia."

Carper also is a partner in the Charleston law firm of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC.

Goodwin would hold the seat until November. That's when the Manchin wants 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.

Manchin had requested state Attorney General Darrell McGraw's opinion on the replacement process. McGraw said a special primary election and a special election can be held this year.

Byrd was the longest-serving senator in history when he died last month at 92.

Growing up in Mt. Alto, a small community in Jackson County, Goodwin told West Virginia Executive in 2009 his first career choice as a teenager was to be a point guard for the West Virginia University Mountaineers.

But Goodwin always pictured himself practicing law, a career choice not uncommon in his family.

"I have a bunch of lawyers in my family because none of us were smart enough to get into med school," he joked to the publication, adding that his family of professionals provided him with a multitude of good examples to draw from in his career.

The youngest among those considered Manchin's potential choices, Goodwin had worked on his 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 Charleston law firm, Goodwin & Goodwin.

The Goodwins have played a major role in West Virginia public service. Goodwin's father, who died in April, had chaired WVU's Board of Governors. An uncle is a federal judge, and a cousin recently was appointed U.S. Attorney for the state's southern federal court district.

And Goodwin already has ties to West Virginia's Senate delegation: his wife, Rochelle, is state director for U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the late Byrd's Democratic colleague.

"Carte Goodwin is unquestionably among West Virginia's best and brightest," Rockefeller said in a press release.

Goodwin's current practice involves litigation, government relations, intellectual property and commercial transactions, according to a Web site for his family's firm.

Goodwin has served as chairman of the state's School Building Authority, member of the state's Consolidated Public Retirement Board and chairman for the Governor's Advisory Committee on Judicial Nominations. He also worked as a clerk for Judge Robert B. King of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1999-2000.

He received his undergraduate degree from Marietta College in 1996 and his law degree from Emory University in 1999.

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