The Northern Panhandle is likely to lose seats in Charleston following redistricting next year, West Virginia Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin told Weirton business leaders Thursday.
Tomblin, D-Logan, is presently making the rounds about the state, and acknowledged he is laying the ground work to assume the governorship later this year if current Gov. Joe Manchin is elected to the U.S. Senate.
Tomblin spoke before the Weirton Downtown Business Association on Thursday at the Millsop Community Center.
The West Virginia Constitution places the senate president first in line in succession to the governor. But while the law also requires the new acting governor to call for a special gubernatorial election, it doesn't specify how soon that special election should occur.
Tomblin said Thursday he definitely wants the job, and didn't provide any more specifics as to when he would call for a special session.
"I'm trying to make sure I have an administration ready to hit the ground running," he commented. "It's hard to attract people if they know the job is only for a couple of months."
And one issue Tomblin and his potential gubernatorial staff would have to face next year is redrawing of district lines in the state following the 2010 census.
Resulting figures are expected to show population losses in the Northern Panhandle and in Southern West Virginia, according to Tomblin. The population in the Eastern Panhandle and in the Morgantown-Fairmont-Clarksburg corridor, meanwhile, is growing, and it is probable more seats in the state Senate and the House of Delegates will be relegated to these areas, he noted.
The specifics have yet to be worked out, and Tomblin said legislators won't even get the information needed for redistricting from the U.S. Census Bureau until April or May - well after the regular session of the West Virginia Legislature concludes in March.
"But I do know your senators and delegates will be serving larger areas," he said.
As for congressional districts, Tomblin expects the 3rd District encompassing the southern counties to grow larger, and for the 2nd District that includes the growing Eastern Panhandle to become smaller in scope.
But he doesn't think the boundaries of the 1st District - which includes the Northern Panhandle - will change much, as the growth in population in the Morgantown area will offset population losses in local counties.
If Manchin is elected to the U.S. Senate on Nov. 2, it is likely he would be sworn in as a U.S. senator before state lawmakers convene for their regular session in January.
As a result, Tomblin as governor would have little time to prepare for the session.
"The last two months, I have been traveling the state to hear the concerns of the people in the event I have that opportunity," Tomblin said..
"I want to be prepared. This is no time to sit around and wait."
Tomblin would continue to hold the title of Senate president while serving as acting governor, and he expects he would receive the pay for the governor's job only during that time. Tomblin said his main focus would be the governor's job.
State Sen. Joe Minard, D-Harrison, who presently serves as president protempore in the state Senate, would take over the duties of the Senate president in Tomblin's absence, according to Tomblin.
Tomblin said he would not move into the governor's mansion, but would use it for official purposes and stay there "when necessary."
Tomblin, 58, was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, and to the state Senate in 1980.
He has served as senate president for 16 years - longer than any other in the state's history.