WHEELING - Former West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland believes state residents should get the right to elect a governor in 2011 - and she intends to be among the candidates when a special election for governor is set.
Ireland - a Republican who served as the state's chief election officer from 2005 to 2009 - expects the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to rule sometime in January on filings requesting a special election for governor this year in the state.
"I don't know how the court is going to rule, but this is what I think should happen," Ireland said. "People need to have a say when as to when we should have an election, and I think people would like to have a chance to vote for governor sooner rather than later."
Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, has held the position of acting governor of West Virginia since Nov. 15, when former Gov. Joe Manchin left to take office in the U.S. Senate. The unexpired term doesn't end until January 2013.
The West Virginia Constitution states that a special election for governor should take place, but it doesn't indicate how soon it should.
The cost for a special election is estimated at $6 million, which Ireland said shouldn't be a factor in deciding whether an election should occur.
"I don't think you can put a cost on liberty and the citizens' rights to elect who they want to be governor," she said.
Ireland, 64, said Dec. 7 that she was actively considering a run for governor, and announced this week she would file the necessary paperwork to do so.
"Depending on what the Supreme Court does, it's time to get a staff together now," she said. "I can't do that without filing papers to expend funds."
Ireland fears the gubernatorial election issue might eclipse other issues during the regular session of the West Virginia Legislature, which starts Jan. 12.
"I don't know if much business going to get done this year," she said. "It's an open-ended issue, and it's not good for the state. We have too many issues to waste 30 to 60 days."
Ireland opted not to run for re-election in 2008 so that she could take care of family members. Since leaving office, she has served as vice president of business relationships at the Mid-Atlantic Technical, Research and Innovation Center.
The job, Ireland said, "has taught me a lot about energy and the environment."
Ireland is the second Republican to express interest in the governor's office. State Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, has also said he will file to run. Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito has also been touted as a possible candidate.
Democrats expected to enter the race are Tomblin; House Speaker Richard Thompson, D-Wayne; state Sens. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha; Secretary of State Natalie Tennant; and state Treasurer John Perdue.
"Anytime there's an opening in elected office you have a lot of people come forward," Ireland said. "That's politics. People will have to decide who has the skill set to lead the state, and I am that person.
"I'm not afraid to make the tough decisions, and we're going through a tough time. I would not want to sit there and make decisions just to get me elected to another office."
She noted that as governor, there is one change she would call for immediately.
"If I were elected governor, I'd pull down that party tent," Ireland said, making reference to the luxury ballroom- size tent place outside the governor's mansion by Manchin. It is used as a place to hold state receptions and events.
"It defaces the dignity of the capitol grounds," Ireland said. "We can just as easily hold parties and receptions in the state Cultural Center."