Members of a committee that will recommend three candidates to replace state Sen. Orphy Klempa, D-1st District, will be looking for a variety of qualities. So will Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who must make the final decision.
Klempa, of Wheeling, has been elected to a seat on the Ohio County Commission. That required him to leave his position in the state Senate, representing Brooke, Hancock and Ohio counties and a small part of Marshall County. Klempa already has submitted his resignation.
Because Klempa's Senate term does not end for about two years, a replacement must be appointed. Again, Tomblin has the final say on that.
But the governor will make his choice from a slate of three candidates recommended by a special panel consisting of six prominent Democrats from the district. They are accepting applications and must send their list to Tomblin by Dec. 25.
Someone knowledgeable about the Northern Panhandle and with some level of respect among its residents should be chosen, of course. Candidates also should have enough time to devote to the job and be capable in other ways of serving 1st District residents. And, of course, members of the nomination committee and Tomblin will be looking for a Democrat to replace Klempa. Finally, the replacement senator will have to come from Hancock, Marshall or Ohio counties because state law requires that no two senators can reside in the same county (incumbent state Sen. Jack Yost lives in Brooke County).
Another criterion should be adopted by the selection committee and Tomblin: Klempa's replacement should be someone who agrees not to run for election to the seat in 2014.
Being an incumbent office holder is an enormous advantage in an election, for any number of reasons, name recognition being high on the list. The overwhelming majority of candidates with that advantage enjoy it because they already have won at least one election. They are incumbents because they earned the trust of voters.
Political appointees are not in that category. If they run for election, they enjoy the advantages of incumbency solely because they have convinced a handful of other politicians of their worthiness.
Seeking pledges of temporary service with no plan to run for election is common in cases such as this. It should be the policy of the local state Senate nomination committee and the governor. Anyone asking for the privilege of replacing Klempa should do so to serve the public, not to seek an unfair advantage in the next election.