UPDATE: Tomblin Publicly Takes Oath to Become Acting Governor

By: Kallie Cart; The Associated Press Email
By: Kallie Cart; The Associated Press Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia lawmakers are discussing changing the way the state fills a vacancy in the governor's office.
A House-Senate subcommittee agreed Tuesday to spend the next month drafting several different proposals for revamping West Virginia's succession process.
Lawmakers began weighing the topic before Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin became acting governor on Monday. Tomblin succeeded U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who was elected to his new office Nov. 2.
One option would create a new elected office of lieutenant governor. Another would keep the Senate president as the successor but require an election within a year of the vacancy.
Several would hinge on amending the state constitution. The Legislature's next regular session begins in January.

UPDATE 11/16/10 @ 8:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- For 15 years he's been the state Senate President, but now you can call him Governor. Earl Ray Tomblin took the ceremonial oath of office on Tuesday to replace the newly minted Sen. Joe Manchin.

Tomblin took the oath in front of the chamber where he's led longer than anyone else.

"I have prepared for this moment with one guiding thought, West Virginia first," Tomblin told the several hundred people who packed into the upper level of the state Capitol to see Tomblin be sworn in. He officially took the oath of office in a private ceremony on Monday.

Tomblin called on lawmakers to work together under his leadership, but that could be a challenge. There has been some controversy about how long he will lead, some have called for a special election to replace Manchin as quick as possible.

There was no mention of the succession issue during Tomblin's speech, but he did continually call on lawmakers to come together.

"If we work together, we can achieve things previously thought not to be possible," Tomblin said. "If we instead act for our own interests we will tear each other apart and West Virginia will suffer."

Tomblin says leaders need to focus on issues like the economy and education.

"I think the public expects us to work on those things and not be so diverted onto all the controversies of succession," Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall said. "I think that was his call to us, and that was a good call."

Tomblin's oath signals a history making transfer of power. It is the first time under the current constitution where a senate president has taken over the role of governor.

"He's a very experienced person," said former Gov. Gaston Caperton, who presided over the ceremony. "He understands that this is a short term and he recognizes probably better than anyone the challenges and the opportunities."

Tomblin will remain senate president but in name only. He says he wants to focus on his duties in the governor's office. The temporary senate president will preside over the senate in the meantime.

Tomblin has said he will call a special election if there's overwhelming demand for one.

UPDATE 11/16/10 @ 12:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia is getting its first real public glimpse of new acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Tomblin took a public oath of office Tuesday at the state Capitol. As Senate president, Tomblin succeeded newly minted U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday.

The 58-year-old Democrat said he would continue to put West Virginia first. He cited a lifetime of public service that began in the Legislature right out of college.

An audience of around 1,000 packed the halls between the Senate and House chambers for the morning investiture. Former two-term Gov. Gaston Caperton led the ceremony, while Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis administered the oath.

The succession is just the second in West Virginia history, and the first under its current constitution.

UPDATE 11/15/10 @ 6:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It was a historic day in West Virginia as the transfer of power begins. On Monday, Joe Manchin took the oath of office as United States Senator, and Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin was sworn in as the state's newest governor.

Acting Governor Tomblin took the oath of office Monday in a private ceremony. A public ceremony is set for Tuesday.

"It was very emotional," Tomblin says. "I mean, it's one of those things you think about a lot, but I'm just pleased and ready to start working for the people of the state of West Virginia."

The transfer of power is making history. It is the first time under the current state Constitution where a senate president has been sworn in as governor. Tomblin says he doesn't want to waste any time and he is focused on moving the state forward.

"There's a lot of good things going on out there," Tomblin says. "We've got to continue to be responsible with the tax payers dollars, we've got to continue to move our education system forward in the state and we've got to continue to try and create jobs."

Tomblin and his wife are settling into the Governor's mansion while former Governor Manchin is getting settled into his new home in Washington.

"Having the opportunity to be governor I think will make me a better senator," Manchin says.

Tomblin flew to Washington to take part in Manchin's swearing in ceremony.

Tomblin will publicly take the oath of office at 10 a.m. Tuesday outside the senate Chambers. Usually governors are sworn in on the Capitol steps, but this is an unusual situation. Tomblin will be in front of the chambers where he has served as senate president for 15 years -- longer than anyone else.

Tomblin will continue to be senate president but likely in name only. He says he will have a very hands-off approach to allow him to focus on the governor's office.

We will carry Tomblin's swearing in live here at WSAZ.com.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia has a new governor.

Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin took the oath of office at 12:01 p.m. Monday to replace Joe Manchin as governor.

The transfer of power comes after Manchin was elected to the U.S. Senate to serve the remaining two years of the late Robert C. Byrd's term. Manchin was to assume his new position on Monday as well.

The 58-year-old Tomblin has said he will put aside his legislative duties upon becoming acting governor.

But criticism of that plan persists. So do calls for a special election for the two years remaining in Manchin's term.

One of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's first duties was to appoint a former health sciences chief for West Virginia higher education to his cabinet.

Tomblin named Dr. Michael Lewis his Health and Human Resources secretary.

Lewis is a physician and was the Higher Education Policy Commission's vice chancellor for health services. He left there in 2002 to take a similar position at East Carolina University.

Lewis has since taken other posts at the North Carolina school, including at its Metabolic Research Group.

Lewis succeeds Manchin's secretary, Patsy Hardy. She's returning to the private sector.

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