West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin is expected to pick his former general counsel Carte Goodwin to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd's vacant seat until a special election can be held, likely this fall. The appointment of a close aide suggests once again that Manchin does indeed have his eyes on the seat.
The popular Democratic governor will be a front-runner in the fall race, if he decides to run. He has called the possibility "highly likely." Goodwin left the governor's office for private practice in 2009, and had been pondering a run for Congress against Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who will now be the Republicans' first choice to run for Senate.
Goodwin said in early July he had heard from DCCC head Chris Van Hollen about a possible challenge and state politicos had been encouraging.
"The DCCC is interested in, and responsible for, fielding a credible candidate in every race and certainly in this race. I am honored that they think I might fit that description," he told National Journal.
Goodwin's wife runs the Charleston office for Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
Goodwin and Manchin were involved in a scandal together in 2008 when Manchin intervened in a lawsuit against chemical giant DuPont, assisting in an appeal of the $382 million settlement. At the time of Manchin's intervention, Goodwin was a senior member of a lawfirm consulting for DuPont on the case. An excerpt from the Charleston Gazette's editorial admonishing them for "improper collusion:"
Some residents of Spelter, Harrison County - disturbed by cancer and other illnesses - sued DuPont in 2004 for heavy metal pollution around a former zinc smelter. They alleged that the company tried to conceal the severity of the problem. Last October, a jury clobbered the Spelter smelter. The chemical firm was ordered to pay $130 million for medical monitoring of 8,000 neighbors, $55 million to clean up the site, and $196 million in punitive damages. It was the largest verdict ever returned against the Delaware-based giant.
Less than a month later, Gov. Manchin spoke on the phone with DuPont CEO Charles Holliday Jr. As DuPont prepared to appeal, corporation executives and lawyers met with the governor and exchanged e-mails with him. DuPont's lawyers gave Manchin two draft briefs, intending for him to copy their arguments and file an intercession to help DuPont. They say he requested the briefs, but he denies it.
On June 24, the company officially appealed to the state's highest court. The same day, the governor filed a friend-of-the-court brief making many of the same points raised in DuPont's sample documents. Observers say it's the first time a West Virginia governor has taken such a step.
DuPont also asked the state Medical Association to intercede, which it did.
Manchin's executive aide, Peggy Ong, is a former DuPont employee who worked on the Spelter case. The governor's lawyer, Carte Goodwin, is from the Goodwin & Goodwin firm that was a DuPont consultant in the Spelter case.
According to my Nexis research, Goodwin also once earned a perfect score in a local contest for West Virginia University season basketball tickets, correctly answering a 10-question quiz about Mountaineer athletics. The tickets, however, went to another man with a perfect score whose name was picked from a hat. He and his wife have one young son and are expecting their second child next month.